Armin was a tireless, incorruptible campaigner for the environment in his hometown of Sibuyan, Romblon until his fearless activism cost him his life.
Armin was the eldest among three children born and raised in Sibuyan, an island around 300 kilometersx` south of Manila. Due to its biodiversity and geographical uniqueness, it is considered by some to be ‘Asia’s Galapagos’ after the famed South American archipelago renowned for its species richness. After his studies as an engineer, he married and had five children but did not confine his devotion only to his family. He dedicated his life to protecting the environment and helping local communities.
Armin had a long history in public service, working with Kabang Kalikasan ng Pilipinas World Wide Fund (KKP-WWF), Fundacion Santiago and with local governments in Espana (barangay) and San Fernando (municipality). These roles all involved coordinating with LGUs and NGOs to monitor and start up livelihood programs.
His family believes Armin’s most valuable work was his active campaigning against mining in Sibuyan. Talks and demonstrations were focused on opposing the formation and subsequent activities of consortiums of mining companies. These consortiums were formed to exploit the industrial potential of Sibuyan’s fertile landscape, in particular Mt Guiting Guiting, a National Integrated Protected Areas Systems (NIPAS) site.
One of Armin’s most notable achievements was his instrumental participation in the cancellation of the DENR cutting permit that would have seen 59,000 trees felled in Sibuyan, some in close proximity to protected areas. As one of his enduring legacies, none of these trees have been felled, to this day.
Armin shunned offers from mining companies to buy his family’s land, despite the wealth this would create. According to him, the cost to Sibuyan would be far too great than whatever money these companies would give. He kept from his family the death threats that plagued his life as an activist, and lived by the mantra “Hindi bale nang mamatay nang lumalaban, wag lang mabuhay nang inaapak-apakan (dying in battle is better than living in oppression)”.
Tragically, Armin was able to live his creed when during a particularly violent protest against mining companies, he was dragged away and fatally shot. The assailant was the head of the security team employed by mining consortium Sibuyan Nickel Property Development Corporation.
The heartbreak of Armin’s family was shared by the community. Their loss was also the loss of thousands of Sibuyanos, who flocked to his burial telling stories of how Armin had touched their lives and made them feel empowered in the face of adversity. He had visions of Sibuyan being for Sibuyans and eco-tourists, not for large mining interests. Armin’s family hopes that his death will give life to so many others – life to battles that need fighting, life to people that need empowerment and life to national struggles that need attention.