Father Nino Garcia of San Lorenzo parish on Manicani island joins calls for a stop to the removal of nickel ore from the island. (ucanews.com photo by Elmer Recuerdo)
Catholic diocesan officials called on the government to stop a mining company from removing a huge stockpile of nickel ore from a small island in the central Philippines.
Removing the ore from Manicani island in Leyte Gulf will only create further environmental damage, officials from Borongan Diocese and activists said.
The nickel ore was left on the island back in 1994 when the government suspended the mining activities of Hinatuan Mining Corp., following opposition by residents.
The Mines and Geosciences Bureau estimates the stockpile amounts to more than 1 million metric tons.
Tensions began on the island last month when Hinatuan Mining Corp. started removing the nickel ore without any prior notice.
Nickel Asia, the parent company of Hinatuan, said the government has allowed it to transport 62,000 metric tons of nickel ore to China.
Residents and local church officials are up in arms against the move and have staged protests outside the local Department of the Environment offices.
Borongan Diocese officials said removing the ore would result in "wanton destruction of the environment."
Clouds of dust resulting from the removal will hurt local residents by affecting their livelihoods and possibly their health, said Father Nino Garcia, priest of San Lorenzo parish.
"Fishermen will catch less fish because the dust will make the seawater murky," said the priest.
However, Nonita Caguioa, bureau regional director, said villagers are better off without the stockpile because it will present a hazard to the community if it remains.
"We are afraid it will cause a mudslide and cause bigger problems. There have been many assessments done recommending the removal of the stockpile," she said.
"We want to remove any possible danger," she said.