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Borongan bishop, clergy want mining closed in Manicani

Borongan bishop, clergy want mining closed in Manicani
Borongan bishop, clergy want mines closed in Manicani

Mining has left this scars to the environment on Manicani Island off the town of Guiuan in Eastern Samar, one the country’s poorest provinces. FILE PHOTO

BORONGAN, E. Samar— The local Catholic hierarchy here appealed on the government to “cease mining operation” on Manicani Island off the coastal town of Guiuan in Eastern Samar.

In a letter sent recently to Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu, Bishop Crispin Varquez and his clergy reiterated that mining has fueled more problems than supposed benefits to the communities.

Citing previous studies conducted by some government agencies, the Church leaders lamented the “excessive destruction” on the island’s environment.

Almost 15 years after the large scale nickel mining operation has been suspended, they said that the island has not yet fully recovered from the negative effects it caused.

“Hence, any new mining operation in the island will only aggravate the damaged condition of the environment,” they said.

The bishop and his around 70 priests renewed their plea to the government as the mining permit of the Hinatuan Mining Corp., a subsidiary of Nickel Asia expiring this October 2017.

They also urged the environment chief to no longer approve and issue a new mineral production agreement (MPSA) with the mining firm.

For the past years, the diocese has been appealing the total closure of HMC’s operation as well as the stoppage of the loading of the existing stockpiles in Manicani.

For a short while, they had a strong ally with former DENR chief Gina Lopez who even ordered the closure of three mines in Homonhon Island, also in Guiuan, for allegedly ruining the watershed.

That ray of hope for church people, however, disappeared when the Commission on Appointments voted against Lopez’s confirmation early this year.

President Rodrigo Duterte did not reappoint Lopez to the post again and instead replaced her with Cimatu, a former military chief.

Church leaders also warned that the resumption of mining in Manicani may violate certain laws and local ordinances and resolutions already in effect.

Aside from that, they said that mining is creating a situation where there is an “unhelpful dependency on mining” since the people are deprived of basic government services.

The clergy also raised their concern on “inappropriate conduct to solicit endorsement for social acceptability,” one of the requirements for the renewal of the MPSA.

“It seems that the people in the island are not transparently informed about the real purpose and the process being conducted to solicit their consent,” they said.

Fr. Cesar Garcia of the St. Lorenzo Ruiz Parish in Manicani said the recent appeal of the diocesan clergy only shows the Church’s concern for the environment and the people.

“For us who have firsthand experiences on the ill-effects of mining, we are energized to be stronger in our stance against the destruction of our place,” Garcia said.

He also clarified that the Church is not against mining per se “but against irresponsible mining and mining in small islands like Manicani.”

“If the ecosystem in Manicani is totally destroyed, there will be no other source of livelihood for the people here,” he added.

Most of the residents in the island depend on fishing as the primary source of sustenance for their families.

Garcia underscored that the Church is not afraid to side with the minority for as long as the advocacy is consistent with Church teachings and Gospel values.

“No matter what happens, I hope that the people, especially those who are against the destruction of the environment, finally see that the Church is always with them,” he said.

HMC operations have been suspended since 2002 over allegations of human rights and environmental violations.

In 2014, the company was granted a permit to transport a million metric tons of nickel ore in its stockpile in Manicani. CBCPNews

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