RESIDENTS of a small island in Eastern Samar are urging Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu to renew their Certificates of Stewardship (COS) with the expiration of Hinatuan Mining Corp.’s (HMC) operation in the island.
Manicani, a very small but mineral-rich island off the coast of Guiuan town, was host to a nickel-mining firm which Mineral Production Sharing Agreement (MPSA) with the government has expired on October 28.
The island was among the hardest hit by Typhoon “Yolanda” in 2013.
The expired MPSA covers almost the entire island’s limited areas for further development after “Yolanda.” The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has suspended mining operations since 2011 citing social issues and environmental concerns.
In 2014, the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) has authorized HMC to dispose of its remaining nickel ore stockpile, mainly limonite ore, from HMC’s operations in the late 1990s.
The island residents have travelled all the way from Guiuan and are currently encamped outside the DENR gates in Quezon City demanding that Cimatu issue a document assuring them that there will be no more mining in their island.
“Here in the camp, there’s enough food. We don’t have to worry about work. People come to support us. If only we’re in a comfortable house and not sleeping on a piece of plywood and in a tent, it would have been our dream of a convenient life,” the campers said.
One of the groups supporting the cause of Manicani residents is the Philippine Misereor Partnership, Inc. (PMPI) in collaboration with the Task Force Detainees of the Philippines (TFDP) and Association of Major Religious Superiors of the Philippines (AMRSP).
Yolanda Esquerra, PMPI national coordinator, said the MPSA of the mining corporation has lapsed without getting renewed and there is a need to rehabilitate the area.
She said Manicani is a protected area covered by National Integrated Protected Areas System (NIPAS) and therefore “development work in the island should evolve around conservation and protection of natural resources rather than extraction of resources that destroys the small island’s environment.”
Arlene Lusterio, TAO-Pilipinas executive director and PMPI co-convenor, said applications for COS renewal are still pending because the DENR said the subject forestlands are covered by the MPSA even as the COS were issued ahead of the MPSA.
PMPI officials said the residents have discovered the land tenurial overlap when some of them applied for COS renewal.
COS is awarded to individuals or families actually occupying or tilling portions of forest lands for a period of 25 years renewable for another 25 years.
“Their application for renewal was in view of the shelter and evacuation component of the integrated island rehabilitation and development program called Project Pagbangon,” Esguerra said.
PMPI said that while the MPSA has lapsed without getting renewed, and thus forcing HMC to apply for a totally new permit, uncertainties still continue to haunt the island residents opposed to mining.
It also called on the DENR to implement the law by declaring Manicani and other island ecosystems a “No Go Zone” for mining.
PMPI is an advocacy and social development network of peoples’ organizations and non-governmental organizations, church/faith-based groups and Misereor, the overseas development agency of the Catholic Church in Germany based in Aachen.