Environmental activist Jonjon Sarmiento stages a hunger strike in Rome protesting the Norwegian nickel mine on Mindoro island.
MANILA, Philippines—At the opening of the Food and Agriculture Organization’s World Summit on Food Security in Rome, a young farmer from Mindoro island went on a hunger strike to protest a mining project in his province.
The Mindoro Nickel Project, to be operated by Intex Resources, a giant mining company in Norway and located at Victoria, Oriental Mindoro, will cover 9,720 hectares of critical watershed areas and affect the rice farmers in the nearby towns, since the watershed area is the farmers’ main source for irrigation.
Together with Jonjon Sarmiento, a participant to the Civil Society Organization Forum Parallel to the World Summit on Food Security, 25 Mangyans and priests also started a hunger strike and fasting outside the offices of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources in Quezon City. “I am from this town. I am a farmer. I am a youth leader. I am here in Rome. So, I will join my town mates in their hunger strike while I am here in Rome,” Sarmiento said.
Sarmiento farms a .044-hectare land, using integrated, diversified, organic farming. In his farm, he has some plots for organic rice, vegetables, and fruits. He also raises some goats and pigs. He is a youth organizer of the Pambansang Kilusan ng mga Samahang Magsasaka (Pakisama or National Confederation of Peasant Movement), a member organization of Asian Farmers’ Association or AFA, one of the International Steering Committee members of the CSO Forum.
The Mindoro Nickel Project has been opposed by the people and the local authorities for the past 15 years. But last October 14, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) issued an Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC).
The ECC allows for the extraction of nickel ore covering 11,216 hectares of mining tenement, a big part of which is identified as critical watershed catchment of Mag-asawang Tubig and Bucayao River systems, as affirmed by the recently concluded Norwegian Agency Development Corporation (Norad) study.
House Resolution 25 states that the mining site encroaches on the largest source of irrigation water for the 40,000 hectares of rice lands in Calapan City, and the towns of Naujan, Baco, and Victoria, Oriental Mindoro.
“Today, governments all over the world will be in Rome to discuss for the World Food Summit. We urge FAO and the governments to stop all activities that threaten the food security of the local people of a developing country and to respect the rights of indigenous peoples. We ask the Norwegian government to investigate the operations of Intex Resources,” said Sarmiento.
The province of Oriental Mindoro, which is ranked third as the province that produces the most food in the country, and known as the food basket of the southern Luzon region is threatened by Intex Resources’s attempt to open up a nickel mine despite local opposition. The proposed mine site is located within a critical watershed area that provides the irrigation for 70 percent of the provinces vital rice fields and fruit plantations.
In Occidental Mindoro, the town of Sablayan is one of the major rice- and corn-producing areas in the province and any major mining operations would greatly affect the agriculture production and endanger social economic conditions in the area. Sablayan’s 22 barangays (villages) and its Sangguniang Bayan (town council) are opposed to mining operations expressed through their respective resolutions and through a municipal mining moratorium ordinance.
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