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Senate inquiry into Sibuyan mining activities sought

Senator Risa Hontiveros has filed a resolution directing the Senate to investigate the nickel and metallic mining activities in Romblon’s Sibuyan Island.

In filing Senate Resolution (SR) No. 459, Hontiveros argued that the mineral wealth of the Sibuyan Island, especially nickel, “has made it a mining hotspot.”

However, she said residents have been calling for a stop in the mining exploration on their island for almost two decades now.

In a television interview Monday,  Hontiveros said mining explorations on the island are still ongoing even though a cease and desist order has been issued against Altai Philippines Mining Corporation (APMC).

"I saw it myself, they still are conducting movements inside," she said in an ANC interview.

Hontiveros called on her fellow lawmakers to conduct an investigation to hold those responsible for the mining activities on Sibuyan Island accountable.

She said she expects former Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Roy Cimatu to be invited to the investigation as APMC's permit to operate was issued during his term.

Former DENR Secretary Lito Atienza awarded the mineral production sharing agreement (MPSA) to APMC in 2009, giving the company the exclusive rights to mine nickel, cobalt, iron, and chromite in the over 1,500-hectare island for 25 years.

In 2011, the DENR Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) issued a cease and desist order on APC after it received complaints that inland waters in Sibuyan are being affected by the mining operations.

DENR-MGB Regional Director Wilfredo Moncado signed an ore export and transport permit for the APC in December 2022, allowing them to supply 50,000 metric tons of nickel to Hong Kong.

Earlier this month, the DENR again ordered a temporary halt to APMC’s operations on Sibuyan Island for violating the implementing rules and regulations of the Water Code of the Philippines.

The DENR alleged that APMC did not have a foreshore lease agreement for a pier, had built a causeway without securing an Environmental Compliance Certificate, and had cut down trees without a permit.

In a statement, APMC said it is "categorically" denying all allegations questioning the legality of its operations on Sibuyan.

"Our company has secured all the necessary permits and licenses to lawfully and peacefully conduct our business in the area," the firm said in its statement issued last week.

APMC also said it is committed to ensuring that its mining operations involved and respected all stakeholders, minimized environmental impact, and prioritized a fair division of socio-economic benefits. —Giselle Ombay/KBK, GMA Integrated News