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Mining operation divides community on remote Philippine island

Bishop Varquez said that instead of bringing progress, mining has damaged farms and water sources

Mining operation divides community on remote Philippine island

Residents of Manicani hold a demonstration to block the operation of a mining company on their island. (Photo courtesy of PMPI)

November 1, 2017

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An open-pit mining operation on a remote island in the central Philippines has divided a community of farmers and fishermen, prompting a Catholic bishop in the area to voice his opposition to the extension of the venture for another 25 years.

In a pastoral statement, Bishop Crispin Varquez of Borongan warned against the "social impact" of mining operations on the island of Manicani in the Eastern Visayas region.

"It has brought wounds of community division and, worst, blood has already been shed," read the bishop's statement.

Activist group have been holding protest rallies across the region in the past weeks to oppose plans to extend the operation of open-pit mines on Manicani Island.

Mining giant, Hinatuan Mining Corporation, has applied for the renewal of its mining contract that expired on Oct. 28. If granted, the company will operate its open-pit nickel ore extraction on the island in the next 25 years.

Hinatuan's operations on the island was suspended in 2002 due to complaints of environmental destruction.

Manicani, a 1,165-hectare island south of the country's third largest island Samar, is home to more than 3,000 people who are mostly related by blood and who rely on farming and fishing for their livelihood.

Even after 15 years of suspended mining operations, residents claim that they continue to suffer the destruction of their farms.

In his pastoral statement, Bishop Varquez appealed to government officials to use their influence to defend the island.

The prelate said that instead of bringing progress, mining has damaged their farms and the people's source of water.

"Shall we just stand and watch these things befall on our brothers and sisters?" said the prelate.

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