Environmental advocates quiz Court verdict favoring mining firm

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MANILA, Feb. 2, 2013—Environmental groups are questioning a regional court’s decision to allow a mining company to proceed with mining exploration despite the local government’s executive order against mining activities in the island.

Romblon’s regional court has issued a resolution last January 17 declaring Romblon’s Executive Order no. 001, S. 2011 as unconstitutional, thus allowing the Sibuyan Nickel Properties Development Corporation (SNPDC) to proceed with minerals exploration.

Anti-mining advocates in the province are challenging the Court’s decision saying it goes against local autonomy and right of local government to protect the environment as mandated by the local government code.

Romblon Gov. Eduardo Firmalo said that he will stand by the executive order, not the Court’s resolution.

“It seems this will be a test case of Mining vs. Local Autonomy and I believe we will win in the end because as the caretakers of our province, the local leaders should agree to protect the environment by measure that is bound by law. I do not think that the executive order and municipal resolutions are unconstitutional,” Firmalo added.

SNPDC has earlier been ordered by the Mines and Geosciences Bureau to desist from mining activities pending investigation on the complaint of the Catholics Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) and other groups.

The mining firm, on its part, filed a declaratory relief against the local issuances that disallowed metallic mining operations in the province.

Msgr. Nonato Ernie Fetalino, diocesan administrator of Romblon and Iglesia Filipina Independiente Bishop Ronelio Fabriquer, leaders of Romblon Ecumenical Forum Against Mining (REFAM) said they will continue to support the mining moratorium.

“Mining moratorium is the cry of our people, it is very clear, this is a moral and spiritual call,” they said.

The mining industry has been dividing communities, they said, but they have remained united in the province of Romblon.

“We shall continue to fight for the integrity of creation, promoting human rights and environmental justice. We remind our people to think twice this coming election,” they furthered.

For his part, San Fernando Mayor Dindo Rios explained that they are empowered by the Local Government Code and the mandate of their constituents which is to protect resources and people from devastating effects of industries like mining.

“I come from an ice-age island of Sibuyan, a sensitive ecosystem teeming with unique biodiversity, the source of our sustainability,” Rios said.

Meanwhile, Rodne Galicha, sites struggle officer of Alyansa Tigil Mina (ATM) reiterated the group’s support of the governor’s moratorium order to preserve a healthful and balance ecology.

“We were disappointed with the court’s decision on councilor Armin Rios Marin’s death and with this recent decision of the same court; the honorable judge favored the same mining company involved. We will exhaust all means to protect our island ecosystems and the rights of our people to determine our own path to genuine sustainable development,” Galicha said.

The group found the Court’s ruling directly opposed on the right of local governments to promote the general welfare of their constituency and implement policies geared towards the protection of their environment and natural resources.

Local Government Units who have enacted legislation prohibiting mining operations in their jurisdictions are Albay, Bukidnon, Oriental and Occidental Mindoro, Iloilo, Samar, Marinduque, La Union, Capiz, Romblon, Antique, Zamboanga Sibugay, Bohol, Zamboanga del Norte, Negros Oriental and South Cotabato. (Jandel Posion/CBCPNews)


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