By Ma. Ceres P. Doyo
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 21:04:00 11/13/2009
MANILA, Philippines—Mangyans and priests, supported by bishops, are taking their protest to Metro Manila and will go on an indefinite hunger strike beginning next week to protest mining operations that they fear will destroy a contiguous watershed area in Oriental Mindoro.
Twenty-five hunger strikers, including 16 Mangyans and two priests, will stage their protest on November 17 in front of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources central office on Visayas Avenue in Quezon City.
Bishop Warlito I. Cajandig of the apostolic vicariate of Calapan has issued a statement condemning the large-scale mining of Norwegian company Intex Resources and repeatedly calling it “irresponsible.”
Cajandig has also issued a call, through the Diocesan Commission on Service, asking for the support of priests, religious, seminarians, students, lay and all people of goodwill “to pray and join in the campaign against mining in Mindoro.”
Three bishops will join Cajandig at a Mass at the protest site on November 18. They are Bishop Antonio Palang of the vicariate of San Jose, Mindoro, Laoag Bishop Sergio Utleg, head of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines’ (CBCP) Commission on Indigenous Peoples and Manila auxiliary bishop Broderick Pabillo.
The Norwegian mining project, which will cover 11,218 hectares, is said to be within the ancestral domain claim of the Alangan and Tadyawan indigenous Mangyan communities.
According to the Ateneo-based Simbayang Lingkod Bayan, “the large scale mining operations of Intex Resources may bring about the destruction of a contiguous watershed and that can lead to the displacement of several indigenous Mangyan communities in Oriental Mindoro.”
The mining project will span four towns—Victoria, Pola and Socorro in Oriental Mindoro and Sablayan in Occidental Mindoro. It is expected to produce 100 million-120 million tons of ore over a period of 15-20 years. Mindoro’s nickel laterite deposit is believed to be one of the biggest in the world.
SLB said the people of Mindoro are furious with the DENR’s approval of Environmental Compliance Certificate for the operation of the nickel project by Intex Resources. The ECC was issued last October 14 by Environment Secretary Lito Atienza despite strong and valid opposition from the community, the local government and the church.
The national anti-mining network Alyansa Tigil Mina (ATM, Alliance to Stop Mining) had earlier called for Atienza’s ouster, saying the former Manila mayor committed “dreadful acts” when he approved the project. Intex, on the other hand, had said the protesters had failed to present their arguments during the public hearings.
Oriental Mindoro has ordered a 25-year moratorium against large-scale mining while the municipal council of Sablayan and the town’s 22 villages separately issued resolutions opposing the “environmentally destructive mining project.”