Altai Philippines Mining Corporation (Altai) CEO Stephen Cascolan defended the legality of their mining exploration activities on Sibuyan Island, Romblon, despite concerns about their environmental impact.
In an interview with TeleRadyo on Tuesday, May 23, Cascolan acknowledged that mining, by nature, is destructive but emphasized that their operations are legal.
He pointed out that Altai’s mining activities are supported by the Philippine government, as evidenced by the Mineral Production Sharing Agreement (MPSA) granted to the company. The MPSA serves as the permit allowing Altai to conduct mining operations.
Cascolan explained that mining is considered destructive because it involves the extraction of land and minerals. However, he assured that rehabilitation efforts are in place and the company follows a scientific approach to mining, which is recognized by the Philippine government.
Cascolan urged critics to understand the workings of the industry before passing judgment. He also clarified that Altai is concerned with complying with the law and refuted claims of numerous violations committed by the company, dismissing them as misinformation.
One of the alleged violations attributed to Altai is the cutting of trees in Sitio Bato, Barangay España. The regional office of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) temporarily halted Altai’s operations due to this violation, as well as the absence of an environmental compliance certificate for their causeway project.
Cascolan stated that Sibuyan Island has a history of illegal logging, and the issue of illegal small-scale mining operations only came to light when Altai began its operations.
He expressed a desire to see evidence to address the allegations accurately. He also did not outright deny cutting down trees, he mentioned the possibility that illegal loggers were responsible until evidence proves otherwise.
Meanwhile, Rodne Galicha, the executive director of Living Laudato Si Philippines, maintained that the burden of proof rests with Altai. Galicha cited satellite images from 2022 that showed the presence of the forest, but recent images from April 2023 indicate deforestation has occurred.