Mining firm, local groups join hands for nature
MANILA, Philippines—Getting one’s voice heard in this day and age can be a challenge, especially when there is a multitude of voices in society speaking loudly and frequently.
For individuals, especially from the marginalized sectors of society, getting policymakers to hear one’s concerns—when there are a multitude of concerns to be addressed simultaneously—is especially difficult.
But some people in Mindoro, who want to help preserve the island’s diverse ecosystem, have apparently found their voice through an unlikely partner, none other than a large mining firm.
Indeed, residents of the island’s two provinces comprising 30 people’s organizations with a combined membership of over 5,000 formed Alyansa Laan sa Kaunlaran at Kalikasan, Laban sa Kahirapan (Alas-Ka) four years ago to address issues related to poverty, development and environmental protection.
Alas-Ka members recently celebrated their group’s founding anniversary in Sablayan, Occidental Mindoro through a clean-up drive.
At the same time, they renewed their call for the lifting of the moratorium on mining in both Occidental Mindoro and Oriental Mindoro, which halted the activities of Norway-based Intex Resources Philippines Inc. as it approached the final stages of its mining feasibility study for the Mindoro Nickel Project (MNP).
Straddling both provinces, the MNP area has the potential to become the largest nickel producer in the country with the only refined nickel-metal plant.
Alas-Ka members—many of whom live in communities that will directly benefit from the nickel mine—look forward to the realization of Intex’s development plans for the two provinces.
The nickel mine is expected to be a boon for both Mindoro provinces as the mining-based industrial development will add to the island’s traditional trades.
“We continue to grow in number and strength compared to our previous years as an organization),” Alas-Ka chairman Danny Martinez told members during the cleanup drive organized by the group.
Growing from 24 founding members, Alas-Ka has grown into a 5,000-strong organization, which now undertakes livelihood and environment projects, and enjoys the benefits of a seed fund.
For its part, Alas-Ka’s partner, Intex, will adopt “an innovative mining approach that promises to leave minimal environmental footprints and a prosperous Mindoro island,” said community relations and development manager Andy Pestaño.
“The approach entails the full utilization of all the mining process components—from raw materials to end products, including consumables, energy, by product, and waste materials,” he added in a statement. “The ore will be mined, processed, and refined in Mindoro and shipped from Mindoro by people mostly from Mindoro and with payment to banks in Mindoro.”
Meanwhile, Department of Environment and Natural Resources Community Environment and Natural Resources Office (DENR-CENRO) official Daniel Estareja called for the continued collaboration among people’s organizations, government, and the private sector for the management of mineral resources and protection of the environment.
He also stressed that Alas-Ka members should remain unified in their stance to promote the industrialization of Mindoro by looking for alternative ways to counter poverty. One of these alternatives, he said, is minerals development, which he believes can be done responsibly.
Alas-Ka is actively participating in the implementation of Intex’s Livelihood Enhancement through Agro-Forestry (LEAF) project, a tree planting and plant propagation program designed to encourage local farmers to better utilize their land and establish sustainable income, growing over time as more crops reach harvesting age.
Members of Alas-Ka have planted rubber trees on a 15-hectare plantation and will expand to 150 hectares as soon as the rubber seedlings are ready.
Apart from livelihood development, Intex is also implementing projects in the areas of education as well as health and sanitation for residents of Mindoro Nickel Project’s host communities.
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