The Department of Environment and Natural Resources is tolerating extractive activities in the country despite the global pandemic. Aside from the continuous operation of OceanaGold in Didipio, chromite ore mining in Homonhon Island in Eastern Samar and Coal mining in Semirara Island in Antique were also reported due to the unimpeded destruction of the environment amid the implementation of enhanced community quarantine.
“It is a blatant disrespect to the people of Homonhon and Semirara islands. People are begging for the government to immediately halt the mining operations due to health and humanitarian concerns during this time of Pandemic Crisis. And yet, the agency that should be protecting the environment is giving these mining companies a go signal to plunder our environment for the sake of economic gains”. Earth Island Institute Philippines Campaign Officer Mark Louie Aquino said in a statement.
Homonhon Environmental Rescuers Organization identifies the vessel as MW VW Peace with 13 Chinese and four Myanmar nationals, docked on the island of Homonhon to load some 7,000 metric tons of chromite ore for export to China. Also, the Save Antique Movement raised concerns after the Chinese vessels arrived in the island of Antique along with Chinese crews and possibly violating health and immigration protocols. However, the Semirara Mining and Power Corp. (SMPC) immediately defended the docking of the ship saying it is in accordance with the government’s COVID 19 Protocols. But Former Senator and now Antique Representative Loren Legarda raised questions if these Chinese vessels and crew are allowed to travel and had undergone quarantine and strict health protocols.
“While we welcome the Chinese government’s COVID19 Aid response to the Philippines, the question is, does it mean that in exchange, we Filipinos should give up our natural resources and give up our territories?”, Aquino added.
Earth Island Institute Philippines also expressed solidarity with the dissenting constituents both in Homonhon and Semirara islands.
“The government should be firm in implementing health protocol measures and environmental protection policies, there should be no exemption. This is to ensure that both people and the environment are well-looked-after in this global pandemic crisis.” Aquino ended.