Bishop Socrates Mesiona of Puerto Princesa is backing up an ongoing protest against an open-pit nickel mining project in Palawan province’s southern town of Brooke’s Point.
The bishop on Sunday visited a barricade in the area to hear demonstrators who have been demanding that Ipilan Nickel Mining Corp. (INC) stop its operations over supposed lack of necessary permits.
“Palaweños, for many years, lived decently in peace until mining companies came… their lives have been disturbed,” Mesiona said.
He also said that the “terrifying” flooding that inundated the town’s several villages last January “is still fresh in their memory and they know that there is no guarantee that it will not happen again.”
“That’s why they are convinced that they have to do something to mitigate any similar incident in the future,” Mesiona added.
The prelate rallied behind the residents who, according to him, just want to assert their rights and protect their environment from the large-scale mining project.
Earlier this month, Mesiona held a dialogue with the townspeople to hear their sentiments on the matter and other environment-related issues.
Residents set up barricades in front of the mining firm’s main office and operations area in the village of Maasin since INC continues to operate despite an order by the town’s mayor to halt operations.
The town’s chief executive Cesareo Benedito Jr on Feb. 6 ordered the mining company to stop operations after it was discovered that the it has no mayor’s permit for 2023.
Jaybee Garganera, national coordinator of Alyansa Tigil Mina, claimed that INC also has no permits to cut down trees and construct a port and causeway.
“Hence, their operations are illegal,” Garganera said. “Ipilan Nickel is in effect, undermining the autonomy of the local government and clearly violating the law.”