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Green groups, Romblon governor question regional court ruling against local issuances

Asserts local autonomy and right to protect environment

January 29, 2013

MANILA  –  Gov. Eduardo Firmalo and members of Alyansa Tigil Mina will challenge the Resolution issued on the Special Civil Action Case No. V-1906, which declared Romblon’s Executive Order No. 001, s.2011, unconstitutional.

Issued January 17, the resolution is found in favor of Sibuyan Nickel Properties Development Corporation (SNPDC) to proceed to minerals exploration. SNPDC earlier received a cease-and-desist order from the Mines and Geosciences Bureau until the conduct of an investigation on the complaint of the Catholics Bishops Conference of the Philippines and other groups. The declaratory relief filed by the mining company also argued local issuances that disallowed metallic mining operations in the province.

Firmalo said: “I will challenge this resolution and stand by the executive order. It seems this will be a test case of Mining vs. Local Autonomy, and I believe we will win in the end because as the caretakers of our province, the local leaders should agree to protect the environment by measures that are bound by law. I do not think that the executive order and municipal resolutions are unconstitutional.”

Mayor Dindo Rios of San Fernando in Sibuyan added: “We are empowered by the Local Government Code and the mandate of our constituents to protect our resources and people from devastating effects of industries like mining. I come from an ice-age island of Sibuyan, a sensitive ecosystem teeming with unique biodiversity, the source of our sustainability.”

Local leaders and advocates are aware and supportive of their leaders

“We stand firm with the moratorium order of the governor towards a healthful and balance ecology, for the general welfare. We were disappointed with the court’s decision on councilor Armin Rios Marin’s death and with this recent decision of the same court – the honorable judge favored the same mining company involved. We will exhaust all means to protect our island ecosystems and the rights of our people to determine our own path to genuine sustainable development,” said Rodne Galicha, leader of Sibuyan Island Sentinels League for Environment Inc. (Sibuyan ISLE) and ATM sites of struggles officer.

Representing Romblon Ecumenical Forum Against Mining (REFAM), Msgr. Nonato Ernie V. Fetalino, administrator of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Romblon and Bishop Ronelio Fabriquer of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente, jointly said that they “will continue to support the mining moratorium - the cry of our people is very clear, this is a moral and spiritual call.”

“The mining industry has been dividing communities, but in our province we have united ourselves. We shall continue to fight for the integrity of creation promoting human rights and environmental justice. We remind our people to think twice this coming elections," the religious leaders added.

Meanwhile, Alyansa Tigil Mina (ATM) finds that the said ruling is opposed to the right of local governments to promote the general welfare of their constituency and implement policies geared towards the protection of their environment and natural resources.

“When the Local Government Code was enacted, powers have been delegated to local government units to promote the general welfare of their constituencies. If the RTC ruling is to be upheld, I believe more local governments will stand and assert their local autonomy. In this case, it seems the RTC is putting more premium to the Mining Act of 1995 and the industry rather than the Local Government Code,” said Jaybee Garganera, ATM national coordinator.

At present, the following LGUs have enacted legislations disallowing mining operations in their jurisdictions: Albay, Bukidnon, Oriental and Occidental Mindoro, Ilo-ilo, Samar, Marinduque, La Union, Capiz, Romblon, Antique, Zamboanga Sibugay, Bohol, Zamboanga del Norte, Negros Oriental and South Cotabato.

Alyansa Tigil Mina is an alliance of mining-affected communities and their support groups of NGOs/POs and other civil society organizations who are opposing the aggressive promotion of large-scale mining in the Philippines.

The alliance is currently pushing for a moratorium on mining, revocation of Executive Order 270-A, repeal of the Mining Act of 1995 and passage of the AMMB.