Groups condemn police dispersal of anti-mining barricade in Sibuyan Island

Anjo Bagaoisan, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 03 2023 10:52 PM

Courtesy of Jing Barrios

MANILA — Environmental groups on Friday condemned the police’s dispersal of residents and anti-mining groups who were preventing mining trucks from reaching the coast of Sibuyan Island in Romblon, wherein two protesters were wounded.

Tensions flared at Sitio Bato in Barangay España, San Fernando town as the barricade of protesters against operations of the Altai Philippines Mining Corporation (APMC) went into its 11th day.

Police formed their own barricade to keep the group from blocking three trucks which according to residents were allegedly hauling nickel ore extracted in the area and bringing them to a private port.

The two sides clashed as the trucks approached, with the police line holding the other off to let the trucks through.

Locals in Sibuyan and environmental groups are fighting Altai’s exploration of the area for fear the mining activity would impact the ecosystem of the so-called “Galapagos Islands” of the Philippines.

Environmentalist Rodne Galicha, executive director of Living Laudato Si, alleged the police was protecting the mining company's interests.

“Hindi namin ito naranasan sa loob ng aming mga pamumuhay dito sa isla,” he said in an online press conference following the incident.

“Never in our lives nagkaroon ng ganito na magpapadala ng mga pulis at magpapadala ng mga sundalo, na kami lang ay ina-assert lang ang aming karapatan para sa malinis, sustenable, balanse, at may ecological balance ang aming pamumuhay.”


Jaybee Garganera of Alyansa Tigil Mina said residents would not have blocked the trucks if they did not see them as a threat to their area.

“Ang nangyaring karahasan kanina ay patunay na dapat ‘wag payagan ang pagmimina diyan sa Sibuyan Island at dapat panatilihin ang protected area status,” he said.

The anti-mining groups listed as wounded a 22-year-old resident named Charles Rosil and Jay Romero, another kagawad of Barangay España whose shirt was torn during the commotion.

He was earlier seen in the video talking to the police demanding to see the mining company’s permit to operate in the area.

Romero said police also handcuffed him, but San Fernando police chief Capt. Jeaneth Binasoy said the councilman was released quickly.

“From the start, ‘yong tao mataas na ang boses, parang ang init-init, kung ano ano ang sinasabi at nagkaroon ng tulakan. Naposasan siya ng pulis para lang ma-subdue. Then after mga ilang segundo, inalis na ang posas,” Binasoy said in a phone interview.

The police chief added the road was a public highway, which was why cops helped the trucks pass through.

She asserted they had no orders to treat the protesters violently.

“Ang PNP is wala kaming pinapanigan. Hindi kami kumakampi sa mining company, at hindi kami kumakampi sa anti-mining. Kami po ay nasa gitna lang po sir, nag-iimplement po ng maintenance ng peace and order,” Binasoy said.

Groups affected by the dispersal said they are studying legal action.

They called on lawmakers to probe the mining issue and for the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to heed the concerns of residents.

They also urged the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) and the Commission on Human Rights to do their own investigation and inspect the area.

APMC has yet to issue a statement on the incident.

Environment secretary Toni Yulo-Loyzaga on Thursday assured the agency will take a good look into the mining situation in Sibuyan.

Elizabeth Ibañez, coordinator of Sibuyanons Against Mining, hoped that concrete action would be taken soon.

“Kung puro imbestigasyon ang gagawin, mauubos ang isla namin at wala pa ring resulta,” she said.

“Hindi kapani-paniwala ‘yong sinasabing aksyon. Makita po muna namin bago kami maniwala.”


APMC resumed exploration activities in Sibuyan island in July 2022, with environmentalists saying the mining firm is extracting 50,000 metric tons of nickel ore to ship abroad for testing.

In 2011, the DENR’s Geosciences Bureau issued a cease and desist order against APMC following a complaint by the San Fernando local government.

But the order was reversed in 2021 following an appeal by the mining firm.

Donato Royo, a Barangay España kagawad who was at the dispersal, claimed they were not consulted in the construction of the private port.

“Hindi nakagawa ang tinatawag na consultation kasi alam ko ‘pag maaapektuhan ang environment, kailangan ng consultation. Walang kinuhang permit sa barangay na kung saan itong port na ginawa nila ay nasasakupan ng Bgy. Espana. At si mayora mismong nagsabi na hindi nila alam na may port na tinayo. Kaya masasabi kong iligal ang port na tinayo.”

San Fernando town Mayor Nanette Tansingco told TeleRadyo last Tuesday that the company has permits from the Mines and Geosciences Bureau, Philippine Ports Authority and Bureau of Customs.

She said the local government has no jurisdiction over the nationally-issued permits for the mining firm.

The anti-mining groups’ barricade remains in the area, with protesters vowing to stay there as long as mining operations continue.

—With a report from Dabet Panelo, ABS-CBN News