The people of Romblon scored double breakthroughs on the mining issue early this week after the provincial government gained the full backing of the national government in enforcing its mining ban.
“We will enforce the mining ban in Romblon,” Department of Interior and Local government (DILG) Secretary Jessie Robredo told provincial officials led by Romblon vice Governor Manuel “Mel” Madrid in a meeting held at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport III the other day.
Also present were Mayors Dindo Rios of the municipality of San Fernando, Ibarra Mansala of Magdiwang, and Festo Galang of Cajidiocan.
Last January, Governor Eduardo Firmalo issued Executive Order No. 1 imposing an indefinite moratorium on all metallic mining in the province after several mining areas, particularly in Sibuyan Island, were tested positive for high level of mercury concentration. Mercury is a toxic chemical used in mining specifically for separating gold from ore.
Two months after, the Sangguniang Panlalawigan (SP) of Romblon passed a resolution denying social acceptance for Ivanhoe Philippines to conduct mining exploration in Romblon’s Tablas Island. Sangguniang Bayan resolutions from different municipalities were likewise passed opposing all mining applications in their respective towns and in the whole province. A bill has also been filed and passed the committee level in the House of Representatives declaring the whole province of Romblon as a no mining zone.
Reports however indicate some degree of confusion, with some people resorting to guerrilla-type small-scale mining in defiance of the ban.
During the meeting, Secretary Robredo advised the LGU heads present on the need to address not just the problems of effective enforcement but also the livelihood concerns of those who will be displaced immediately by the ban – about 500 families in Sibuyan Island whose livelihood are highly dependent on small scale mining.
On effective enforcement of the ban, the Secretary said he would instruct the Provincial Police Office to strictly carry out the ban in cooperation with the LGUs. On the economic side, he assured the delegation that he will help the province secure assistance from different government agencies such as the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC), and the Department of Labour and Employment for immediate and long term livelihood projects.
Last week, Romblon officials and civic leaders likewise got the assurance from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) that it will not issue any permit to mining applicants in the province.
“We will not sign any mining permit in the province of Romblon,” declared DENR Sec. Ramon Paje and director Leo Jasareno during a meeting with Governor Firmalo, Gina Lopez of ABS-CBN Foundation, Board Members Felix Ylagan and Abner Perez, and Mayors Festo Galang of Cajidiocan, Limuel Cipriano of Concepcion, Eddie Lota of Alcantara, and Artemio Madrid of Sta. Maria.
Other officials and civic leaders who attended the dialogue include Odiongan Sangguniang Bayan member Bonbon Fernandez of Odiongan, Bishop Ronel Fabriquer of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente (IFI) Church, general Orville Gabuna of the Commission on Appointments, Alyansa Tigil Mina representative Rodne Galicha, and Protected Area Management Board head Dr Art Tansiongco.
Resolutions expressing concerns and opposition to mining compiled through the efforts of Romblon Ecumenical Forum Against Mining (REFAM) and Alliance of Students Against Mining (ASAM) were submitted by the delegation to the DENR. The Secretary in response told the group that an administrative order will soon follow to enforce the department’s new policy for Romblon.
Pleased with the outcome, Governor Firmalo thanked the collective effort of all concerned Romblomanons and their hardworking officials for facilitating these breakthroughs on the mining issue. He reminded everyone however that many things are yet to be done in ensuring the sustainable development of the province.
“Marami pa tayong magagagawa basta’t tulong-tulong,” stated the Governor.-by Ogie Salvador and Wilson Fortaleza