Sibuyanons celebrate festival, seek climate justice

SIBUYAN ISLAND, Romblon—Residents of San Fernando town on the little island of Sibuyan celebrate their week-long festivity despite ecological threats and disasters for almost three consecutive years.

Commemorating 107th founding anniversary of the municipality, Pag-alad Festival reenacts the transfer of the center of local governance from the old Azagra pueblo to Sitio Pag-alad, now San Fernando, due to scarcity of water. It further retells the stories of old folks about the miraculous intervention of the town’s patroness, Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception, against invading pirates.

Fr. Aristeo Royo, parish priest of the town, called upon the faithful to “continue protecting the integrity of creation given by God, the fountain of the water of life; and put themselves under the mantle of protection of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception who fervently intercedes for those who respect life.”

“Through this festival, we wish to remind ourselves how important water issue is? How good it is for our livelihood and bad if not taken care of properly,” said Patria Royo, lady chieftain of a Sibuyan Mangyan Tagabukid indigenous community.

“Water for us is also a source of fresh air which we breathe, thus, necessary to be conserved properly through the preservation of our watersheds and banning irresponsible and illegal logging. We must stop large corporations which continue to threaten our water rights by exploiting our mountains through mining,” Royo continued.

San Fernando town mayor Dindo C. Rios, president of the Parish Council, claimed that “water on our island is not scarce but if we allow mining to cut all our trees and strip our top soil to mine nickel, rushing flashflood waters from our mountains will just wash all of us to the sea.”

“As we celebrate our annual festivity, we unite ourselves to protect the balance of our ecology. We still see hope that the national government would heed our call. We are in a small island which is vulnerable to the hazards of climate change such as storm surges due to strong typhoons and flashfloods due to large amount of rainfall,” Rios further asserted.

“Amid these threats of mining, logging and hazards of climate change, our lives and livelihoods on the island are at stake,” declared Rodne R. Galicha, officer of Sibuyan Island Sentinels League for Environment Inc. (Sibuyan ISLE), an active member of the Philippine Movement for Climate Justice and Alyansa Tigil Mina.

“The trauma of losing a staunch defender of environment, Armin Rios-Marin, and the disasters brought by Typhoons Frank and Feria are still fresh. We have no choice but to maintain the balance within our ecosystems and watersheds. If development like mining would still be allowed by the national government despite our island’s disaster vulnerability, it will become an anathema of climate justice, human and environmental rights,” Galicha asserted.

Ice-age Sibuyan Island, dubbed as Galapagos of the Philippines, is an important bird area (IBA) and biodiversity hotspot according to conservation group Haribon Foundation. The whole island has been proclaimed as a mangrove swamp forest reserve through Presidential Proclamation 2152 by former President Ferdinand Marcos and its Mt. Guiting-guiting as Natural Park through Presidential Proclamation 746 by former President Fidel Ramos.

Twenty-four mining claims are laid out by the national government for mining investors and more than 1,500 hectares of land has been approved to be exploited in San Fernando town.

One thought on “Sibuyanons celebrate festival, seek climate justice

  1. What is the feasibility of either:

    1) Invoking direct to the Supreme Court the Writ of Kalikasan for the whole of Sibuyan or
    2)Filing a suit against DENR Sec. Paje and the mining companies for wrongly implementing the 1995 Mining act not in accordance with the Christian doctrine i.e. violations of :
    a) the 1991 LGU act providing and assuring the life of citizens of Sibuyan
    b) Act protecting endemcic species
    c) Proclamation 2152
    d)Proclamation 746
    e) Clean Air and Water Act etc. etc.

    Rodney may spearhead this effort if he desires. Good Luck Sibuyanons!


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