Thursday, May 28, 2009
My people have already spoken against Intex Resources, Philippines, Inc.,- the prime mover of the anti-environment and anti-people Mindoro Nickel Project (MNP). Most of them are beginners in such mass action or protests, specifically the youth.
No less than the Bishop of Occidental Mindoro, His Excellency Antonio P. Palang, SVD,DD and the rest of his clergy, some nuns, along with Local Government Unit (LGU) employees, legislators and barangay officials headed by Mayor Eric Constantino of Abra De Ilog and Mayor Godofredo Mintu together with Vice-Mayor Eduardo Gadiano of Sablayan including Mangyan leaders from the Pantribung Samahan sa Kanlurang Mindoro (PASAKAMI) headed the more or less 5,000 anti-mining participants in a mass action held in the capital town of Mamburao last May 27, 2009. PO and NGO members of anti-mining coalition called KAAGAPAY and lay leaders from different Church organizations from northern part Saint Joseph Parish in Paluan, down to Good Shepherd Parish in Magsaysay in the south, significantly took part in the activity.
Said anti-mining groups came to Mamburao to attend the Public Consultation earlier scheduled up by the Environment Management Bureau (EMB) of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources or DENR. Intex was able to mobilize more than 1,000 pro-mining participants inside the Mamburao Municipal Gymnasium yesterday. It was obvious that Intex financially shouldered the affair and practically took charge of the whole consultation process which is supposedly EMB-DENR’s role as the prime government agency mandated to protect the environment or atleast be independent in its process. So, food and beverages,- packed lunch, tetra-packed juice and bottled water, flowed like the elegant Amnay River to the pro-miners, while the anti-mining groups were not permitted to enter in the venue. Around 50 uniformed soldiers and policemen were at the gate and elsewhere. They were in full battle gear. Also utilized were 2 fire trucks, 2 mobile cars and an army truck.
But what is the Environmental Impact Assessment or EIA? Every development project needs an EIA. Department Administrative Order (DAO) 37 states that the EIA’s objective, procedure, and other structures and procedures. Community participation is also stipulated in DAO 37, which states that the objectives of the EIA is to enhance maximum public participation in the EIA process and to validate the social acceptability of the undertaking (read: project) so as to ensure the fullest consideration of the environmental project. If public participation principle is at the very core of the Environmental Impact System (EIS), why the consultation appeared exclusive only to pro-miners?
Msgr. Ruben Villanueva, Vicar General of the Apostolic Vicariate of San Jose, initially tried to question the process but to no avail. Nobody from the delegation of the anti-mining groups inside the gymnasium were allowed to talk except for Mayors Mintu and Constantino. At the gate, the priests were still blocked until Vice-Governor Mario Gene J. Mendiola, Board Members Roderick Q. Agas, Arnold T. Abeleda and Damaso G. Abeleda II confronted the lawmen and only then the group was allowed to enter the municipal compound.
In his speech at the public consultation, Mendiola expressed the objection of the Provincial Board to the conduct of the Public Consultation specified in their Resolution No. 63 dated 26 May 2009 and was approved and adopted on the same date by Provincial Governor Josephine Y. Ramirez-Sato. The Board Resolution is “self-explanatory”: “Expressing the objection of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan (SP) of Occidental Mindoro to the Public Consultation on the Mindoro Nickel Project scheduled on the 27th May 2009 in Mamburao, Occidental Mindoro..” The Resolution was grounded on the motion of Agas, Chairman of the Committee on Local Government in their session last May 25, 2009. Late in the late the afternoon when majority of the participants held a march in Sta. Cruz which started in front of the Municipal Building to Holy Cross Parish Compound. No program was held there.
Here are the reasons cited by the SP from Resolution No. 63: “… as the project is within the territorial jurisdiction of the municipalities of Sablayan and Sta. Cruz, it is deemed more appropriate to hold public consultation in Sablayan or Sta. Cruz and NOT in Mamburao …; this Body DID NOT receive any information from EMB-DENR regarding said issue and the invitation being sent DIRECTLY by Intex..; the time allotted for the open forum is ONLY 30 minutes which is INADEQUATE….” (Emphasis mine-NAN).
While in the middle of Intex presentation, the anti-mining groups walked out. The rally (cum consultation) participants marched from the venue to the nearby compound of Our Lady of the Pillar Parish and conducted a program at the back of the convent. Mendiola assured the participants that the SP, upon advise of Governor Sato, is immediately going to craft an ordinance declaring a mining moratorium in the province. He and the rest of the SP members who were with us received an “standing ovation” from the triumphant, agitated, and lively crowd.
Hopeful words (from politicians) that bring hope and relief,- even temporary, just like the Acacia trees that gave us shades from the heat of the sun that noon. On that very day when my people’s little but historic triumph and victory unfolds. But we went home last Wednesday keeping in mind that this was just a beginning…
(Photo from SSC File)