A diocese of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente (IFI) opposed the resumption of mining operations in Sibuyan and Tablas, two of three islands comprising the province of Romblon.
In a pastoral letter released on June 13, Bishop Ronelio Fabriquier of the Diocese of Romblon and Mindoros, a jurisdiction covering mineral-rich lands, strongly rejected the imminent reentry of destructive mining in Romblon.
The revival of mining in the province and across the archipelago was instigated by President Rodrigo Duterte’s issuance on April 14, 2021, of Executive Order No. 130, series of 2021, effectively lifting the moratorium on mineral agreements, including the issuance of mining permits.
“All of a sudden, mining will invade the province of Romblon, with Sibuyan Island as its first target,” Fabriquier, who also chairs Romblon Ecumenical Forum Against Mining (REFAM), said in the letter.
The church leader noted that an environmental consultancy group attempted to hold an information and education campaign in Sibuyan, a vital step towards the processing of an environmental compliance certificate for a venture to extract nickel.
Palladium is the target in Tablas Island, particularly the towns of Odiongan, Looc, Ferrol, San Agustin, San Andres, Sta. Maria and Alcantara – seven of nine towns in the island. The diocesan seat is in Odiongan.
Rev. Elvin Fetalco, the National Priests Organization Deputy of the diocese, said his organization affirmed Bishop Fabriquier’s position: “We worry about the environmental implications of mining operations in our communities.”
Like the bishop, he noted how mining operators sought to gather support through claims that mining would create employment and countered that “what the project actually offer is ecological destruction.”
This destruction was outlined in Bishop Fabriquier’s letter. Mining, he said, has caused severe and massive deforestation; the movement of toxic compounds into the air, soil and water; and the pollution of important habitats.
All the possibilities, proven by past events in the Philippines and elsewhere in the world, decreased the quality of life of locals and destroyed ecosystems, he noted in a separate interview.
Rev. Fetalco said residents of Sibuyan Island, which includes the municipalities of Cajidiocan, Magdiwang and San Fernando, have been wary about the alleged entry of a mining corporation with links to a high-ranking government official.
“People are apprehensive about the project because politically powerful people are behind it, but they also demonstrate strong resolve to protest against it,” he said. “We are encouraged by their conviction.”
Fabriquier urged the provincial government to heed the people’s appeal, and put greater weight on the environment and the communities.
“The government should seriously take its task of ensuring every Rombloanon’s right to safe habitat that is unthreatened by the bad effects of mining,” the bishop said in an interview.