On mining activity in Homonhon Island

Guiuan Mayor Annaliza Gonzales-Kwan maintains that the mining operations in the historic island of Homonhon follows the government’s policy on ‘responsible mining,’ contrary to the claims of the local residents and the Church.
(Photo Courtesy)

TACLOBAN CITY– The mayor of Guiuan town in Eastern Samar said that she is for responsible mining which would benefit her people.

Mayor Annaliza Gonzales-Kwan was reacting to a story that appeared on Inquirer wherein an official of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau maintained that the mining operations in Homonhon Island have not resulted in ‘grave abuse’ of the environment, a claim disputed by a group opposing the operations on the historic island.

Gonzales-Kwan said that she is disappointed that those who are opposing the mining operations in Homonhon Island make it appear that it is already in ‘bad shape.’

“They make it appear that Homonhon is in bad shape. We the people of Guiuan are quiet on the mining issue because we know the truth. It is the people from the outside who are creating much noise,” the town mayor said on Sunday via Viber.

“I am for responsible mining. I understand the issue on the environment but if people have no jobs, the rest of the environment will be destroyed: illegal fishing, logging, etc. And criminality. Now that there is mining in Homonhon, some people from Guiuan are already working there,” Gonzales-Kwan added.

According to her, the mining operations in the island has resulted in employment of 2,300, some are residents from the mainland.

Gonzales-Kwan also said that aside from employment generation, the mining activities have also resulted in income and taxes to the government, and the mining companies have become partners of the local government in the social development projects that benefited the villagers.

“Poverty is the bigger problem. To me the economic benefits outweigh the intense emotional noise being bandied around. This has been a PR issue,” she said.
She said that balancing the economy and environmental protection is possible if all concerned sectors would help and not just criticisms.

The town mayor also claimed that the photos circulating on the social and mainstream media that appeared to be pits were deceiving saying what appeared to be pits are silting ponds of the mining company where water from mining operations are collected until all the sediments are settled.

“The photo(s) are the silting ponds of a mining company. The photos seem to be enhanced and enlarged. That is not the true picture of Homonhon, otherwise, the people of Homonhon will have no more land to live if that is true. There are 8 barangays with more or less 4,000 people. Homonhon’s land area is around 10,000 hectares and only less than 10% is being mined,” Gonzales-Kwan said.

She said that mining companies have their land development plan, restoring the mined area.

“When ore is taken out of the surface, it is now fit for agriculture activities,” Gonzales-Kwan.

“My job is to give jobs to my people and to live a better life. We are working on a comprehensive environmental development plan for Homonhon Island which will be funded by the social development management program fund of the mining companies which is 1% of its operating cost. This will be participated in by our UP consultants doing our comprehensive land use plan,” Gonzales-Kwan said.

Earlier, the regional director of the MGB, Glen Noble, despite some allegations, their office has not found any ‘grave abuse’ committed by the mining companies operating on the island involving the destructions of Homonhon’s environment.

Noble also said that last year, the mining companies operating on the island have paid P182.62 million last year of excise tax to the government.

But a group opposing the mining operations, the Homonhon Environmental Advocates and Rights Defender, Inc. (HEARD), said that no amount would compensate for the ‘destructions’ caused by the mining operations on their island, where Ferdinand Magellan landed in 1521.

“No amount is worthy enough for the damages, bad effects, and destructions the mining has brought to the island,” Daipen Montes, a board of director of HEARD, said.

At present, three mining companies are operating in Homonhon, namely, Emir Mineral Resources Corp., Chromite King, Inc., Nickelace, Inc., and Mt. Sinai Mining Exploration and Development Corp.