by Alcuin Papa and Riza T. Olchondra
Philippine Daily Inquirer, November 20 2009 page A2
SOME 25 HUNGER STRIKERS, most of them members of the Mangyan tribe, vowed yesterday to continue their protest in front of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) central office in Quezon City to press for the cancellation of a big mining project on Mindoro island.
Fr. Edu Gariguez of Mangyan Mission, one of the strikers, said the participants, 16 of them Mangyans, decided on Wednesday evening to continue with their hunger strike even after Environment Secretary Lito Atienza suspended earlier that aternoon the environmental compliance certificate (ECC) that was issued to Norwegian mining firm Intex Resources on October 14.
Gariguez said their jubilation over the suspension faded after they studied Atienza's order.
“The suspension only covers 90 days. We want the project cancelled. It also gives Intex the opportunity to submit the documents needed. It left the decision for the continuation of the project in the hands of the DENR. It might still decide in favor of Intex. So this is not yet finished,” Gariguez told reporters.
Atienza had ordered the suspension of Intex's ECC for 90 days during which time the mining firm was directed to submit documentation that it conducted public consultations on the project.
Gariguez said “no meaningful public consultations” on the project occurred.
“We want a cancellation of the project. It is clear Mindoro residents are opposed to the project. It did not go through the proper process,” said Nick Tumaca, a farmer leader.
Lives at stake
Mangyan leader Badang Isidro said members of her tribe “would die if the ECC is given. We will lose our lives, our livelihood. As Mangyans, we value nature and the environment.”
Gariguez showed reporters the results of a recent study conducted by a seven-man Environmental Impact Assessment Review Committee (EIARC) of the Mindoro Nickel Project.
Intex said it was still keen on continuing with the project even after its ECC was suspended.
“First of all, we're not yet mining the site. We're studying it. There might be a misconception that we are already mining,” said Jake foronda, Intex's Mindoro nickel project manager.
Foronda said Intex still aimed to complete its feasibility study on the project. “We expect the feasibility studyt to be finished around February,” he added.
He told the Inquirer that Intex went through the process of consultations and getting the necessary permits to study the potential mine site.
Contrary to the claim of local residents, he said the site did not sit on a critical watershed.