100 Days of Sibuyan Barricade: A Climate Wake-up Call

May 3, 2023

Today marks the 100th day of the Barikada Kontra Mina in Sibuyan Island, Romblon. This collective action is a testament to the unwavering spirit of the Sibuyanon people in protecting their land, culture, and livelihoods. The community has shown resilience in the face of adversity, and their peaceful actions have inspired many communities that also struggle against activities that are destructive and exploitative in nature. 

The 100th day of the Barikada Kontra Mina is a significant milestone, and environmental defenders along with Sibuyanons, vow to continue their struggle until their demands are met – the cancellation of the Mineral Production Sharing Agreement (MPSA) of the Gatchalian-led Altai Philippines Mining Corporation (APMC). 

Why protect the “Galapagos of Asia”?

Sibuyan Island has earned the title “Galapagos of Asia” because of its extraordinary biodiversity wealth. Picture a dense forest with over 1000 trees per hectare, inhabited by a wide variety of plants and animals. This island paradise is a sanctuary for countless endemic species, found nowhere else on earth. Its flora boasts an impressive 700 species of vascular plants, with 144 species of trees, 54 of which are exclusive to Sibuyan, and 120 species that can only be found in the Philippine archipelago. The fauna on Sibuyan is equally impressive, with a recorded 64 species of birds, 10 amphibians, 25 reptiles, and 18 mammals calling the island home. 

Since the Philippine archipelago is situated near warm oceans, we are naturally bound to tropical depressions or typhoons; what is unnatural are the aftermath of these occurrences – disasters. As our planet’s climate continues to deteriorate, the warming of oceans poses a serious threat, with the potential to trigger the melting of Arctic ice and subsequent flooding of islands, both in the Philippines and worldwide.

The rising temperatures of our planet have led to unpredictable weather patterns, leaving many vulnerable communities at the mercy of violent storms, and we have nothing to thank but the anthropogenic causes of environmental destruction. Everything is a normal thing, but when catalyzed by unnatural forces like exploitative and capitalist-centric human interventions, there is a high chance that there will be crises – climate crisis to be exact. People demand that we pay up for losses and damages, but our earth does too. When there are extreme activities that cause destruction to its natural composition, the only thing Earth can do is to achieve balance in any way possible, even through means like Super Typhoons like Haiyan (Yolanda). The sad part about this is, not all are accountable for the earthly damage done, but all humans, especially the marginalized are disproportionately devastated. 

Sibuyan Island and Palawan, Philippines, both islands combating destructive mining activities, are vital ecological frontiers in the country, serving as crucial protectors against typhoons. It is imperative that we acknowledge the correlation between our actions and the well-being of our planet and take accountability for establishing a sustainable future for all. Safeguarding Sibuyan Island guarantees a present and future worth living. 

On February 4, Altai Philippines was ordered to temporarily stop operations until all issues and concerns are addressed. Photo by Michelle E. Lapiz

Climate change hit marginalized Filipinos most

If the mining problem in Sibuyan Island, one of the country’s remaining ecological frontiers, is not addressed systematically and comprehensively, it could lead to a catastrophe. A looming crisis waiting to be unleashed in the worst possible scenario imaginable. This could have tragic consequences that may be irreversible. 

Climate change is a big problem that has been around for a long time, but it is affecting some people more than others. In the Philippines, indigenous peoples, marginalized sectors, women, children, and most especially people with intersecting identities are most impacted by the effects of hazards like typhoons, flash floods, and landslides. These vulnerable groups are bearing the brunt of it. From displacement to loss of livelihoods and increased vulnerability to disasters, these communities are struggling to cope with the effects of climate change. 

The mining and climate issue is multifaceted and interconnected, and if left unresolved, could cause a domino effect of detrimental consequences that would be deeply regrettable. Sibuyanons are on the frontlines in bravely defending our environment. The barricade must be a wake-up call for the government and the people, to respond to this climate crisis through genuine, comprehensive, and inclusive solutions.

Uniting against Sibuyan Island Mining

When we visited nearby barangays from the barricade in Barangay España, it became evident that the majority of households are opposed to mining. “Ayaw namin sa mina”, “no to mining”, “Sibuyan ipamana, huwag ipamina!” are just some of the protest calls displayed in their homes. Some are written on their walls and some are written on used tarpaulins but all are written with the passion to protect their dense forests, clean waters, abundant fish catch, and their rights as Sibuyanons, as Filipinos. 

Time and time again, Sibuyanons have powered through and embodied the line, “The people united will never be defeated,” when environmental defenders scored a victory against Altai Philippines Mining Corporation. Through the barricade, a cease and desist order was released by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR). Altai Philippines issued a statement saying that they will “voluntarily” halt the mining exploration but it is clear that through collective action, the will of the people prevailed. 

Not only APMC but those who are attempting to conduct mining explorations on the amazing island of Sibuyan must be warned: they will hold the line, they will stand firmly and hand-in-hand, even if it takes more than 100 days of protesting in the barricade.

The Mining and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) of DENR should heed the demands of the people – cancel Altai MPSA now and save Sibuyan. It is high time that DENR Sec. Loyzaga-Yulo should proactively participate in this 100-day plea to stop mining in Sibuyan. This will not only benefit its local residents, but will also prioritize our welfare and rights as Filipinos to a healthy, clean, and sustainable environment. 

Protecting Sibuyan is climate action.

Michelle E. Lapiz is the communications officer of Living Laudato Si Philippines.

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