Three-time Brazilian jiu-jitsu world champion Meggie Ochoa visited Tuesday the camp of the protesting residents of Manicani Island, Eastern Samar and Sta. Cruz, Zambales picketed in front of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) office in Quezon City.
The Manicani islanders, who have been picketing in Quezon City for almost a month, are calling for the closure of open-pit mining operations of Hinatuan Mining Corporation, which has been operating since 1992 and was suspended in 2002 but was permitted by the DENR to continue its loading operations.
According to Marcial Somooc, president of Save Manicani Movement, Hinatuan Mining has practically destroyed the environment of the 12 square kilometer island of 3,000 people. His group has been calling for rehabilitation and reparation of the island.
Nickel mining is also being opposed in Santa Cruz, the northernmost town of Zambales, wherein residents blocked mining trucks of the Zambales Diversified Mining Corporation in the first three months of 2016.
“Gusto ko lang pong sabihin na suportahan [natin] ang pinaglalaban ng mga taga-Manicani at Zambales na mahigit twenty days nang nandito,” Ochoa said.
“Malapit na pong mag-Pasko pero hanggang ngayon di pa rin sila napakikinggan. Sana hindi na madagdagan ang nasisira at nabibiktima ng open-pit mining kasi malaking inhustisya ito sa taong bayan,” she added.
Ochoa, the top under-45 kilogram jiu-jitsu fighter in Asia, won her division’s gold medal in the 2016 Asian Beach Games in Da Nang and the 2017 Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games in Ashgabat.
She is also known for her crowdfunded campaign in the 2014 Jiu-Jitsu Federation World Championships in Long Beach, having won a gold medal there.
Accompanying Ochoa is football player Inez Achacoso, former team captain of the Ateneo women’s football team in UAAP Season 74.
Somooc welcomed the support of the lady athletes in the fight against open-pit mining, which has been supposedly suspended by President Rodrigo Duterte.
“Ang hinihingi po namin ay permanenteng pagpapatigil ng open-pit mining sa buong bansa at magkaroon ng istriktong reglamento sa pagmimina kung saan kaming mga lokal na mamamayan, at hindi mga malalaking korporasyon, ang namamahala,” he said.
However, DENR secretary Roy Cimatu has not faced the protesters and has remained mum on the issue.
Photo courtesy: Kim Arriola