Altai Philippines Mining Corporation Suspends Operations in Romblon’s Sibuyan Island

The local environmental defenders of Sibuyan Island, Romblon, recently set up a human barricade against Altai Philippines Mining Corporation (APMC) to prevent its operation in Brgy España due to alleged environmental regulations violations. That’s why the environmental activist group urged the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to cancel the mineral production sharing agreement (MPSA) of APMC, which was awarded by former DENR Secretary Lito Atienza in 2009.
It granted the company exclusive authority to mine cobalt, chromite, iron, and nickel for 25 years on the 1,500-hectare island. On February 5, the Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) questioned APMC for building a port on the island without acquiring a foreshore lease agreement. PPA issued a notice of explanation to APMC after receiving a letter from Bantay Kalikasan ng Sibuyan environmental group and San Fernando Mayor Nanette Tansingco regarding the illegal construction of a port in Sitio Bato, Brgy España.

According to Joselito Sinocruz, PPA Batangas Port Manager, APMC did apply for a permit to develop and construct (PDC) last January 25, but it’s still under evaluation. On the other hand, building a port without the necessary permit incurs APMC a P100,000 penalty per PPA policy. Meanwhile, Sinocruz said that the company can still use the port in practice, given they pay the penalty charges 100%. But PPA will still evaluate the opposing group’s request in the letter to issue a cease-and-desist order against APMC.

Moreover, the DENR-Environmental Management Bureau of Mimaropa inspected APMC on February 1 and found out about the illegal causeway project construction since the company did not obtain an Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC). APMC also cut down trees without a permit and is under investigation for the alleged destruction of sea grass and other marine resources due to the company’s causeway project construction.

Apart from that, DENR-Mimaropa stated that the company violated the DENR Administrative Order 2004-24 and the Water Code of the Philippines when they flattened the suggested roadway and constructed a docking port by dumping gravel into the water as they did not secure an approved foreshore lease agreement from PPA. With that said, DENR issued a Joint Order (JO) to APMC regarding the company’s illegal construction of the causeway, port, and other relevant activities on February 6, 2023.

As stated on the JO, DENR issued a cease-and-desist order to APMC to construct and operate in their causeway in Sitio Bato, Brgy. España, San Fernando, Romblon. The company’s Ore Transport Permit is also suspended in light of non-operation on its causeway. DENR also stops APMC from transferring ore from the contract site and denies the company’s application for Miscellaneous Lease Agreement for violating the Commonwealth Act 141 or the Public Land Act.

The province of Romblon DENR Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Office (PENRO) is also ordered to file suitable legal actions against APMC for cutting trees without a permit and to investigate the damages to marine resources. Most importantly, although the tension in Sibuyan Island arose after the local police and protesters clashed, DENR assures the public, especially the Sibuyanons, that they will strictly implement environmental laws to ensure community safety.