MANILA (Mindanao Examiner / Feb. 15, 2012) - Filipino environmental advocates on Tuesday unveiled Romblon’s anti-mining memorial to commemorate the biggest protest against mining fought by the Church, Local Government Leaders and its people.
Organizers said the memorial will remind the people of their effort to strongly face and counter the entry of large scale mining firms in Romblon.
"Today we commemorate the unity of our people to uphold the dignity of life and environment. As a person and public servant, I continue to adhere to the principles of genuine sustainable development, which will not sacrifice the capacity of future Romblonanons to survive. We maintain that local government units have the autonomy to defend the general welfare; at the end it is our people who will be left and will suffer. Metallic mining has no room in the province, and to follow the priority industries of President Benigno Aquino - we should focus on agriculture, tourism and infrastructure," said Gov. Eduardo Firmalo.
Romblon’s struggle started in 2006 when some 8,000 people gathered to protest against mining in Sibuyan where anti-mining activist Armin Marin was killed the following year by an employee of Sibuyan Nickel Properties Development Corporation.
In 2011, more than 12,000 people gathered in Tablas Island to protest against another big Canadian mining company Ivanhoe Philippines Inc. which applied for a permit to explore approximately 14,000 hectares of land but decided to withdraw in September 30 that same year due to people’s and local government’s opposition.
“We hope that the proposed mining policy reform order of President Aquino will uphold the decision of my constituents, recognize and further respect the mandate of the local government officials to defend the general welfare, health and security of all and the future generations to come,” Firmalo said.
Msgr. Nonato Ernie Fetalino, administrator of the Diocese of Romblon and adviser of Romblon Ecumenical Forum Against Mining (REFAM), said that "for nine months we have united all our voices and efforts but it is a lifetime commitment to defend the integrity of creation. We look at our environment as significant source of life and we are called to maintain the balance of ecosystem, we are stewards and we are not called to abuse it. It is our spiritual duty to defend the dignity of life."
Ivanhoe’s main reason for pulling out from Tablas Island was the lack of support from local officials and unresponsive communities, it said in its letter to the Mines and Geosciences Bureau.
Meanwhile, Rep. Eleandro Jesus Madrona is currently pushing for House Bill 4815 that will declare Romblon as a mining "no-go" zone.
"This is the voice of our people not to allow mining in the province. This biggest legacy we can leave for the province—to make our province a better place to live in with a balance and healthful ecology. We hope the House Bill 4815 will soon be passed as a law," Madrona said.
Bishop Ronelio Fabriquer, of Iglesia Filipina Independiente, and Chairman of REFAM, said: "We shall continue to stand up for God and our country's patrimony. The Mining Act of 1995 has been the root-cause of division among communities and continuously degrading the environment. We cannot permit this to happen in the province. We call for the scrapping of the Mining Act of 1995 and urgent enactment of the consolidated alternative mining bills pending in the House of Representatives."