TACLOBAN CITY- An anti-mining group is calling for the resignation of officials of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources- Mines and Geosciences Bureau (DENR-MGB) here in the region. Sought for their ouster are Leonardo Sibbaluca and Nonita Caguioa, executive director of the DENR and regional director of the MGB, respectively. The two officials appear not to heed the order of Environment Sec. Gina Lopez to stop the transport of nickel ore in Manicani Island, off Guiuan town, Eastern Samar, said officials of the Protect Manicani Society (Promisi), citing their reason why they are seeking for their resignation. Promisi is a group that opposes mining activity in Manicani, an island of more than 2,000 inhabitants.

The Hinatuan Mining Corp. (HMC), which has a mining permit on the island, is on the process of hauling their nickel ore stockpile which is being opposed by the Promisi.
“We are seeking for the two to resign from their posts as they are not serving our interests but that of HMC. There is already an order from Sec. Lopez to stop the transport and yet Sibbaluca and Caguioa appear not to heed the order,” Marcial Somooc, Promisi president said in a press conference on Friday(July 22). Somooc said that the presence of the HMC in the island is not only causing environmental danger to them but even their personal relationships are affected. He said that while there are group opposing for the stoppage of the mining activity in the island, there are also people who favor the HMC’s presence.  The group is also seeking for the ouster of MGB national director Leo Jasareno who earlier allowed the HMC, through its mother company Nickel Asia Corp., to dispose the stockpile.

Sec. Lopez had issued an order on July 19 directing HMC to stop in the transport of nickel ore in Manicani to prevent environment damage caused by excessive soil extraction.” About 50,000 metric tons of nickel ore are said to be transported by the HMC under an ore transport permit granted to it by the MGB. HMC had started its mining operation in Manicani Island in 1992 but due to low price of nickel in the world market, temporarily ceased its operations in 1993. In 2002, then DENR Sec. Heherson Alvarez suspended HMC operations in the island due to its alleged human rights and environmental violations. Last year, HMC was given the permit by the MGB-8 to transport its stockpile. The mineral is being transported to China. Larry Pascua, regional coordinator of Sanlakas which supports the Promisi on this campaign, said that he find it “ironic” that the mineral deposits are to be transported to China where the Philippines are having territorial dispute.

“They are helping enrich China to the expense of our poor people in Manicani,” Pascua said, referring to DENR and MGB officials. Leyte Samar Daily Express contacted Sibbaluca and Caguioa through their respective staff but there was no response from their end. But earlier, Coquioa said that the stockpile were not only of “low quality” but wastes reason why her office allowed it to be transported away from the island. She had also vehemently denied that they are serving the interests of the mining company. (JOEY A. GABIETA)