Even if he would destroy the equivalent of Galapagos of Asia—the pristine Sibuyan Island in Romblon—plastics king William Gatchalian is determined to mine 3 million tons of nickel from the island worth P 4.6 billion, despite his operations being declared illegal by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.
He has no environmental clearance certificate, no ports permit but his firm rushed the illegal construction of Sibuyan mining port just to meet the export schedule with China, reported business blog spot, Bilyonaryo.
This is why Gatchalian’s Altai Philippines Mining Corp. (APMC) made an urgent appeal to the Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) to allow it to use a hurriedly- built port in Sitio Bato, San Fernando in Sibuyan to facilitate its first shipment of nickel to its Chinese buyer scheduled in late January.
APMC was issued a cease and desist order by the DENR last week for hurriedly building the causeway project without an environmental compliance certificate; and for cutting and damaging hundreds of trees without a permit.
The PPA has asked APMC to explain why it built an illegal port in Sibuyan.
In a letter to PPA-Batangas port manager Joselito Sinocruz on January 21, APMC chairman and president Hanniel T. Ngo was apologetic in his “urgent request” to allow the firm to use, by its own admission, the “under-developed” causeway for the shipment of 50,000 tons of nickel on January 24.
“Our causeway does not have any concrete for pavements and slope protections, except only for some mooring bitts foundations at the pier,” Ngo said.
Ngo said APMC’s barges from Cebu and Manila would arrive on the island on February 23 to unload its supplies and heavy equipment.
“APMC’s target volume of nickel ore to export every year is 3 million metric tons or 250,000 MT every month,” said Ngo who expects five panamax-size foreign vessels (with a capacity of 50,000 MT each) to transport the shipments to the firm’s Chinese buyer.
Ngo said APMC only started building the causeway for its nickel transport in January 2023 or just a few days after obtaining an export permit from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources-Mines and Geosciences Bureau.
Ngo claimed in his PPA letter that APMC was ready to export nickel after a “decade of exploration and numerous permits from the DENR,MGB and the local government units.”
Records, however, showed that APMC’s mining activities on Sibuyan Island had been stopped by the DENR in 2011 or just two years after its Mineral Production Sharing Agreement (MPSA) was signed by then Environment Secretary Lito Atienza in 2009.
The CDO was lifted in 2021 and an exploration permit was granted a year later. But APMC has faced massive protests from residents and environmentalist groups seeking to protect the pristine island.
The company is also being probed for possible human rights abuses where two got hurt during an anti- mining protest that was shown on videos being violently dispersed by police. The videos were posted online.
Sibuyan residents had been blocking the entry of trucks from the Altai Philippines Mining Company (APMC) for a few days, but Philippine National Police officers were instructed to clear the crowd on February 3, resulting in two people sustaining injuries.
The Commission on Human Rights is doing a motu proprio investigation of this incident through CHR’s Investigation Office and CHR Region IV-B.
According to the CHR, it has also received a complaint in September 2022 alleging that the APMC harassed and intimidated anti-mining advocates on Sibuyan Island.
“Victims claimed that the company barred teachers from participating in anti-mining gatherings and even refrained them from posting anti-mining sentiments online. Two students were also allegedly brought to the barangay and were forced to issue a public apology. The investigation is still ongoing,” said the CHR.