Amid report of environmental destruction

SOLITARY. The island of Homonhon in Guiuan town, Eastern Samar may be recognize to be historical place but it has become more known due to the mining operations. Photo shows a passenger motorcycle traversing a dirt road in one of the villages of the island.

HOMONHON ISLAND, GUIUAN, Eastern Samar– Be responsible and protect the watersheds of this historic island.

This was the urgent appeal of Rep. Marcelino ‘Nonoy” Libanan of the 4Ps party-list group as he led in the marking of the 503rd anniversary of the landings of Ferdinand Magellan on the island on Sunday (March 17).

Libanan, who is also the minority floor leader of the House of Representatives, said that destroying the island’s watersheds could lead to scarcity of drinking water on the island, home to more than 4,000 people spread on its eight villages.

“I called on our mining companies to show your heart for our people on the island and not just think of your profits. Lack of drinking water on Homonhon Island is a big problem which could potentially lead to a problem among villagers,” he said in his speech.

And this could be done by protecting the watersheds of the island, Libanan added.

The solon said that if these mining companies would not help protect the watersheds of the island, he would not engage himself to any with them, forewarning the operators of possible dire consequences relative to their mining activities.

Residents on the island have claimed that among the ill- effects of mining activities on the island destroyed their watershed.

Patricia Bagania,70 of Barangay Pagbabangnan where the site of the Magellan landings, said that drinking water is indeed a concern to the residents.

“Hope our officials will address this. We need safe drinking water here on the island,” she said whose grandson, Leonil, 29, works in one of the mining companies.

At present, there are four mining operators on the island, Emir Mineral Resources, Techiron Resources Inc., Global Min-Met Resources, and Verrum Terra Geoscience, Inc.

The island, the site of Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan’s landing on the country in 1521, is rich in nickel and chromite, minerals being extracted by these mining companies, concentrated in the villages of Casuguran and Cagusuan.

Town Mayor Annaliza Gonzales-Kwan supported this call of Rep. Libanan who said that they have crafted a five-year comprehensive development plan for Homonhon.

And included in this plan is the protection of the island’s watershed and its environment.
Gonzales-Kwan acknowledges that due to the mining activities on the island, ‘environmental problems’ arise as a result, though she did not elaborate.

However, these environmental problems could be corrected by coming up with the Homonhon Comprehensive Development Plan which also consists of providing livelihood opportunities for the people on the island and even promoting Homonhon as a tourist site due to its ‘historical wealth.’

“We have also asked assistance from the experts from the University of the Philippines to help us craft the comprehensive land use plan for Homonhon” Gonzales-Kwan added.

The town mayor also disclosed that several projects would be provided like constructing access roads, connecting the eight villages for easy transport among its people and goods.
Gonzales-Kwan also said that a major part of the P6.3 million excise tax for this quarter alone that would be paid by these mining companies would be poured to Homonhon to help fund various programs and projects on the island.

“I assured our people in Homonhon Island that the municipal government would not abandon them. They are my constituents but we have to balance things out like protecting our environment and at the same livelihood opportunities,” she said, adding that over 2,000 people from the island are working on different mining operators.

Gonzales-Kwan also hoped that the national government would no longer issue mining permits to the island.

“For me, the four mining companies now operating on the island are enough. Hope our national government will listen to my appeal,” she said.

But for town parish priest, Fr. Jonathan Pading, the call of the Church to stop all mining activities on the island remains.

“Our call to stop all mining activities here on Homonhon Island continues. These mining activities destroy our environment, including the supply of clean drinking water,” he said.

According to him, because of mining operations, ‘intentional’ forest fires occur on the island to pave the way for the mining activities, in the process affecting their source of drinking water.

“They should not deny the islanders of safe drinking water,” Pading said.