Environment Secretary Maria Antonia Yulo-Loyzaga. PHOTO FROM YULO-LOYZAGA’S TWITTER PAGE

DENR chief urged to revoke Altai permit

AN environmental group asked Environmental Secretary Maria Antonia Yulo-Loyzaga to revoke the exploration permit and terminate the Mineral Production Sharing Agreement (MPSA) of Altai Philippine Mining Corp. (APMC) in Romblon amid the alleged violations committed by the mining company.

In his letter to Yulo-Loyzaga dated Feb.10, 2023, Living Laudato Si’ Philippines Executive Director Rodne Galicha cited the abuses of APMC including its failure to secure permits for the tree cutting and construction of a causeway, and lack of environmental compliance certificate (ECC) in constructing a private port.

“With the recent findings, statement, and orders of the offices and agencies under your leadership regarding violations of laws and policies of APMC on behalf of Sibuyanons, I request that the exploration permit be revoked,” Galicha said.

Galicha added that the MPSA of APMC should also be terminated for its failure to comply with the agreement’s terms and conditions.

“Clearly, APMC violated section 11.1 items of the MPSA stating the obligation of the contractor to secure all permits necessary or desirable for the purpose of mining operations,” he added.

The DENR suspended the operation of APMC as Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) issued notices of violation to APMC for violation of Section 4 of Presidential Decree 1586 or the “Philippine Environmental Impact Statement System,” Republic Act (RA) 6969 or the “Toxic Substances and Hazardous and Nuclear Wastes Control Act of 1990,” RA 9275 or the “Philippine Clean Water Act of 2004,” and PD 705 for cutting trees without a permit.

In an interview with The Manila Times, Sibuyanons Against Mining Coordinator Elizabeth Ibañez said that residents want to unmask the real owner of the mining company in Romblon during the Senate investigation on the alleged violations of APMC.

Ibañez said that during the visit of Sen. Ana Theresia “Risa” Hontiveros on Sibuyan Island on Thursday, she informed the people that a resolution was already filed at the upper chamber to probe the mining operation of APMC in Romblon.

“Yesterday, personnel from the APMC were drying the ore, but they covered the ore before Senator Hontiveros and Atty. Chel Diokno arrived,” Ibañez said.

Ibañez has said that the ore from the barge was being unloaded at the pier.

DENR Mimaropa Regional Director Joe Amil Salino has ordered the APMC to suspend its mining operation on Sibuyan Island as he issued notices of violation against APMC for operating a causeway project without an ECC.

Ibañez said the barge and ship already left the pier following the issuance of the cease-and-desist order.

“The ship and barge left because of the temporary closure order of the port because of the violations,” she added.

Ibañez added that the probe of the upper chamber should determine the negligence of both the local government unit (LGU) and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), particularly the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB).

“The investigation should also determine who ordered the PNP (Philippine National Police) to disperse and harass us. As you can see, members of the dispersal unit were in full battle gear and who is the real owner of the mining company as the LGUs, including here in San Fernando failed to act,” Ibañez noted.

She said that based on the information on the ground, APMC is owned by the family of Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian, adding that it was the former’s brother, Kenneth Gatchalian who is overseeing the operation of the mining company.

“It is common knowledge here that the Gatchalians own the mining company. Although we have no black and white proof, so we have that during the investigation, this will also be determined,” she added.

Ibañez said the human barricade will continue as it enters the 19th day on Friday after it started on Jan. 26, 2023.

“Until there is no concrete action against the Altai, we will continue our barricade,” she said.

Ibañez said that communities in other areas in Romblon support the move of residents of Espana, Sibuyan Island to oppose the mining operation in the area.

She also questioned the sincerity of the DENR after it ordered the filing of other cases against APMC.

“The MGB said that the mining company has no violations to stop the operation of the mining company, but now they are saying Altai has many violations. How can we trust their pronouncements when they defend the mining company,” she noted.

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