Ralph Abainza’s geological and sociological notes on Manicani island

Some good observations from a UP Geology undergrad student about Manicani island where an open pit mine is subject to some media and political debate as the anti-mining activists lobby for the full closure of mining operation in the island. Ralph posted this in his fb wall, and was shared by many people and groups. Reposting this, photos also from Ralph. Good work, Ralph.

Statement on the Personal Observations in Manicani

by Ralph Lauren Abainza
November 15, 2017

I declare my outmost support to the people of Manicani!
I stand with them in asking the government to RENEW the MPSA of the Hinatuan Mining Corporation!

With the rise of the mining issue in Manicani, and as challenged by KAISA to “gain a more holistic perspective on mining”, I personally went to Manicani Island in Guiuan, Eastern Samar yesterday (November 14, 2017) to personally integrate with the people and to relay here back in Manila their situation and their personal stories…

mani1(Ralph is 2nd from right)

Majority wants mining

First of all, the number of the island residents who are in favor of mining is overwhelmingly 85% according to the official survey coming from the barangays. This number is even attested when I went around asking for the people’s opinions; seeing them speak with passion, even some of them almost fall into tears, really made me further realize that the pro-mining stance is really coming from the masses, contrary to what some people are shouting. Going around the island, I ask people on why there are still very few anti-mining people, and this statement from Julita Echavez of Brgy. Hamorawon summarized their sentiments:

“Sinungaling sila. Yung mag anti-mining lang naman sa isla ay yung mga abroad (those who have relatives abroad), yung may ibang trabaho sa bayan.”

These and many other statements from the elders of the island saying that how HMC really improved the lives of the Manicani people really strengthened the truth that they are indeed in favor of renewal. Now, I ask you. Siding with the privileged 15% of the population is what you will call being “pro-people”? Think again.

There’s no active mining

Looking at the official records, I found out that the claim that the company has been “mining the island for 25 years” is a blatant lie; Yes, the MPSA was approved in 1992, but since then, the only active mine operations only occurred for an accumulated of 5 years, but then again, with the company’s care for the people, even without shipments for many years, they maintained the area and social services.


Reduced to Smithereens

As a geology student, the KAISA’s claim that the island “will be reduced to smithereens” is a BLASPHEMY against the principles of our field. Look all the books and no single reference will ever claim that the island of Manicani will even have a hectare of it reduced with open pit mining. For the record, let us look on the statistics: Manicani Island is 1,165 Ha., and the records from both the company and the government shows that the MPSA only covers 419.75 Ha., Furthermore, the actual mine area is just less than 3% of the total land area! With the knowledge in geology, of course, we can be sure, that even with this small mine area percentage, it will never reduce the size of the island.



There are also claims that when mining came, the agriculture plummeted making the people poorer, but is this the truth? NO. Going back to the geology of the island, and as what I surveryed yesterday, the soil of the island is mainly LATERITIC, which is really highly mineralized to the point that agriculture, though may survive, will never be sustainable nor profitable enough for the people to have a decent living. Now, with this natural scenario, island’s capability for agriculture will remain poor WITH or WITHOUT MINING, contrary to what the non-geologists say.



I went around the coastal areas of the island and saw the thriving mangroves and sea grasses in the area. The coastal waters are indeed clear, especially because it’s a sunny day. I interviewed residents and they told me that the seas only have brownish coloration during heavy rainshowers. This, in geological sense, is natural because the soil in the area is highly weathered and that heavy rainshowers will naturally bring them to the seas, again, WITH OR WITHOUT MINING. Actually, in fairness with the HMC, this natural phenomenon is being mitigated with their silt ponds and other filters to ensure that the lives of the people will be more protected.


The minority (15%) of the Manicani population, together with their aggressive support groups claim that the mining activity destroyed the coral reef in the area and that the fish catch plummeted when HMC claim. Well, guess what? DENR-PASU conducted scientific survey in 2016 and found out that indeed, the coral reef areas were severely destroyed that it cannot anymore have sustainable animal life and the main cause, according to their scientists, is….. DYNAMITE AND CYANIDE FISHING. The fishermen in the community, told me that even though they can fish before, the amount still cannot sustain a decent living, what more today that the corals were severely destroyed?

The company, in my visit, actually showed their efforts in restoring the destroyed sea ecosystem to make fishing more viable to the people, and with the help of the community, they can really make the coastal waters of Manicani thriving again.

Conflicting Laws

There are claims that according to the Presidential Proclammation No. 469, s. of 1994 and Executive Order No. 79, s. of 2012, mining in Manicani Island is prohibited. I invite everyone to reflect on these clauses:

“Mining contracts, agreements, and concessions approved before the effectivity of this Order shall continue to be valid, binding, and enforceable so long as they strictly comply with existing laws, rules, and regulations and the terms and conditions of the grant thereof.” (Sec. 1, EO 79)

“subject to private rights, if there are any,” (PP 469)

The claim that these laws prohibit mining can only be true if the mining claim in Manicani Island was made after 1994 and 2012, but HMC’s claim was already approved as early as 1992 — 2 years before the declaration, which means, it is not prohibited, rather, further protected by the law as still binding. (cf. GR 107764)


As an Iskolar ng Bayan and a science student, I integrated with the masses and united their sentiments with scientific facts. My visit in Manicani enlightened me of how the people in the island are really pro-mining, contrary to what those in Manila claimed. With all the blatant lies and misconceptions, I wonder now what group can even claim that they’re pro-people and pro-truth, if their emotional statements were grounded to false facts and statements from the privileged 15%.

To perceive mining as wholly destructive is not just anti-development, but also, a “flat-earther perspective” in which, despite all the scientific advancement, still heavily rely on personal opinions grounded with their own ideologies. Is this what “honor” and “excellence” mean for us?

While it is true, that in the case of Manicani Island, the government must be held responsible for the services to the people, why dwell with false dichotomy? Why ask either-or if both the government and the mining company can actually help hand-in-hand in bringing progress to this island. The ideology of a more responsible government is good, but to ask the hungry community to wait for it to materialize is a statement that can only come from the privileged. As an environmentalist, I always say that environmentalism shall always be united with development because depriving the people from such decent living will only make them neglect the environment further. As what the barangay captain of Brgy. Banaag said: “Kung walang maayos na hanapbuhay ang mga tao rito, edi lalaganap ulit ang dynamite fishing, pagnanakaw, at kaguluhan.” The clear deceptions, patterned with emotional statements of those in Manila shall never hinder the true voice of the people coming from the island.

Now, I throw back the challenge to KAISA, and to all other groups who released such statements saying that they are for the people of Manicani, to never be blinded by ideologies and statements that are ungrounded. I ask everyone to develop a sense of holistic view of the development, in both the lenses of social justice and scientific truth. To saw such false claims makes me think if our current “Iskolars ng Bayan” still live “honor” and “excellence”.

I, Ralph Lauren Abainza, a BS Geology student from UP Diliman, an environmentalist, a faithful Catholic, and friend of the masses, assert my support for the people of Manicani and their pro-responsible mining stance. I call upon KAISA and other “progressive” groups to see Manicani Island itself and reassess several of their claims.

Since the 85% of the people in Manicani cannot come to Manila to voice out their stand, I invite everyone to help them do so.


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