MAC/20: Mines and Communities

Joint Letter Of The Governor And The Bishop Of Oriental Mindoro

Published by MAC on 2006-10-18

Joint letter of the Governor and the Bishop of Oriental Mindoro, to the Department of Environment and the Natural Resources, appealing the permanent cancellation of the MPSA granted to Aglubang Mining Corporation (local partner of Crew Gold Corporation)

18 October 2006
HON. ANGELO T. REYES
Secretary
Department of Environment and Natural Resources
Visayas Avenue, Quezon City

Dear Sec. Reyes,

During your visit to Calapan City, Oriental Mindoro last 18 August 2006 to launch the Green Philippines Highway Project, we conveyed to you the strong and categorical opposition of the people of Oriental Mindoro to the proposed Mindoro Nickel Project being spearheaded by the Aglubang Mining Corporation. The Department of Environment and Natural Resources, in an Order dated 10 November 2005 signed by then Secretary Michael Defensor, reinstated the Mineral Production Sharing Agreement (MPSA) granted to Aglubang Mining Corporation to explore for nickel in a 2,290.6714 hectare contract area located in the Municipality of Victoria, Oriental Mindoro. This MPSA was earlier revoked by the DENR in a Notice of Termination/Cancellation of the Mineral Production Sharing Agreement of Crew/Aglubang Mining Corporation dated 16 July 2001 signed by former Secretary Heherson T. Alvarez.

You advised us to put in writing our opposition to the said MPSA reinstatement. Hence, we are submitting to you this letter on behalf of the people of Oriental Mindoro and we are appealing to you to effect the permanent cancellation of the MPSA granted to Aglubang Mining Corporation and the removal of the province in the list of the priority mining areas in the country for the reasons set forth herein:

1. At the outset, we stress the undisputed fact that Mindoro Nickel Project does not have any iota of social acceptability on the part of the people of Oriental Mindoro. The entire political leadership of this province represented by the Governor, the Representatives of the two congressional districts of the province, all the 15 city/municipalities of Oriental Mindoro, have categorically and unconditionally opposed the Mindoro Nickel Project. Thus, these local Sanggunians have not issued any endorsement for the Mindoro Nickel Project.

Likewise, the Mindoro Nickel Project is overwhelmingly opposed by the local diocese of the Roman Catholic Church led by Bishop Warlito Cajandig. It is likewise opposed by all the other religious denominations in the province. The different civic organizations and non-government organizations in Oriental Mindoro have also manifested their vigorous opposition to the Mindoro Nickel Project. This strong social opposition on the part of the leaders and people of Oriental Mindoro should not be ignored.

2. It is likewise undisputed that the contract area covered by the MPSA of AGlubang and Mining Corporation is within the watershed area. In fact, this was the finding and the ground cited by Sec. Alvarez in his Notice of Termination/Cancellation of MPSA dated 16 July 2001 where he asserted that "the area it covers falls within an important watershed area requiring the protection of the DENR." Significantly, this vital pronouncement was not disputed or contradicted by Sec. Defensor in his Order reinstating the MPSA dated 10 November 2005. The very law invoked by mining proponents, Republic Act 7942, otherwise known as the Philippine Mining Act of 1995 expressly provides in Section 19 thereof that among the areas closed to mining agreements are watershed areas. The proposed mining area of the Mindoro Nickel Project being within a watershed area justifies the permanent cancellation of the subject MPSA.

3. You are aware of the devastating floods that submerged the entire Calapan City and large parts of Naujan and Victoria in Oriental Mindoro last December 7, 17 and 27, 2005. We experienced these three successive floodings when Aglubang River was flooded due to heavy monsoon rains in that area. Vast agricultural, residential and commercial areas were flooded that almost devastated our local economy.

In a all these disastrous floodings, the common denominator was the overflowing of the Aglubang River. The source of the headwaters of Aglubang River is precisely the mining site of the Mindoro Nickel Project. No other justification or explanation on the part of mining proponent can alter or hide this fact. The strong rains that fell in the Aglubang watershed area, the proposed mining site of the Mindoro Nickel Project, caused the overflowing of Aglubang River which in turn submerged Calapan City and the towns of Naujan and Victoria. This fact alone proves the fragility of the environment of the Aglubang watershed area where the mining contract area is located.

If today, heavy monsoon rains in the Aglubang area already cause disastrous floodings in our floodings in our province, how much more when this watershed area is disturbed and the trees therein removed so that is can be mined.

If the area above Aglubang River, which is the contract area covered by the MPSA will be mined, it would not be difficult to foresee the catastrophic consequences to the people of Oriental Mindoro and their communities. Calapan City, and the towns of Naujan and Victoria will not only be flooded but would be practically erased from the map as they would be inundated not merely by waters but by muddy soil from mining excavations.

We therefore appeal to you to protect the lives and safety of the people of Oriental Mindoro and not to allow the alleged monetary benefits of the proposed Mindoro Nickel Project to take precedence over the survival and welfare of our people. In the words of Sec. Reyes, "no amount of mitigating measures can take away the risks faced by these areas . . . what does it gain a nation to be short sighted and merely think of money when an irreparable damage to the environment will cost human lives, health and livelihood capacity of our farmers and fisherfolks endangering the food security of our people?"

Indeed, what will be the gain to the nation of the Mindoro Nickel Project when it will lead to the destruction of an entire city and towns that are producing and supplying food to Metro Manila and to the Southern Tagalog area.

4. In his Order dated 10 November 2006 reinstating the MPSA, Sec. Defensor relied on the alleged favorable endorsements of the Mindoro Nickel Project given by the concerned local government units, such as the towns of Socorro, Victoria, Pola. This is totally false and misleading. No municipality in Oriental Mindoro has given any endorsement to the proposed mining project. Attached are the resolutions of the Sngguniang Bayan of the municipalities of Socorro, Victoria, Pola vigorously opposing the Mindoro Nickel Project that were passed after the issuance of the 10 November 2005 Order precisely to dispute the claim of Sec. Defensor in said Order.

With the repudiation by the concerned Sangguniang Bayan of their alleged favorable endorsements that were relied upon as one of the grounds for the reinstatement of the MPSA, the 10 November 2005 Order has suffered from a serious blow.

Considering the foregoing premises, we earnestly appeal to you to permanently cancel the Mineral Production Sharing Agreement between the Philippine Government and the Aglubang Mining Corporation and the removal of the province of Oriental Mindoro in the list of the priority mining areas in order to protect the fragile environment of the province, particularly the Aglubang watershed area and to save the lives and properties of thousands of residents of the province.

Thank you and best regards.
Very truly yours

ARNAN C. PANALIGAN
Governor
Province of Oriental Mindoro
MOST REV. WARLITO CAJANDIG
Bishop
Apostolic Vicariate of Calapan

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