A public scoping for a mining project required by the Philippines environment impact system policy is declared illegal by the attending public in Sibuyan Island, Romblon.
The Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) under the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) facilitated the public scoping Thursday afternoon in Taclobo village within the municipality of San Fernando together with Altai Philippines Mining Corporation (APMC), a company led by business magnate Kenneth Gatchalian.
Citing DENR Administrative Order 2017-15, an estimated five hundred participants comprising 90% of attendees, who did not sign the attendance sheet, questioned the validity of the process as regards compliance and jurisdictional irregularities. The environment department order (DAO) provides guidelines on public participation under Philippine Environmental Impact System (EIS).
“The venue mentioned “Covered Court, Sitio Talaba, Brgy. Taclobo, San Fernando, Sibuyan Island, Romblon” in the EMB-approved notice of public scoping is different from that of the invitation sent by the mining proponent to the stakeholders and the exact venue has been tampered with “Sitio Talaba” erased; no notice of change of venue was officially executed by the EMB,” said Rodne Galicha, a known Filipino environmentalist and local resident speaking in behalf of said attendees.
Galicha, who also leads Living Laudato Si’ Philippines, explained that the EMB also violated its own rules particularly Section 7.3 of the DAO in failing to provide details in its notice the deadline for the registration of intent to comment and the deadline for submitting comments.
“Both EMB and APMC are to be held accountable in not abiding with the rules and in tampering with invitation letters for the public scoping respectively. APMC also failed to disclose the names of its incorporators in its presentation as well as the aerial photos of the project and projected timeframe and project phases, as provided for by item c of section 7.1 of the order,” said Galicha.
An immediate, inclusive and transparent multi-sectoral DENR central office-led mining audit is demanded by the civil society and religious sectors.
“We urge Secretary Toni Yulo-Loyzaga to act immediately and declare a status quo, send a national team and investigate. We have been a peaceful community until the mining company arrived, dividing our people, destroying good relationships, and damaging our ecosystems even during their exploratory stage,” community development worker at Bayay Sibuyanon Inc. Elizabeth Ibañez said.
Meanwhile, Mario R. Rona, representing a local Catholic parish church, said that other economic drivers such as tourism, agriculture and fisheries will be largely affected and diminished.
“In an island ecosystem like Sibuyan, with high susceptibility to flooding and landslides, with two protected areas namely, Mt, Guiting-guiting Natural Park and the Mangrove Swamp Forest Reserve, the island as home to many threatened species of flora and fauna – mining is not compatible and will never be responsible,” said Rona.
The public scoping in question is attended by the residents and local government units of San Fernando led by Mayor Nanette B. Tansingco, Biodiversity Management Bureau, Mines and Geosciences Bureau, Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Office, the academe, religious and civil society, among others.