Residents and local government officials of Brooke’s Point in the province of Palawan condemned the continued operations of a mining company in the area even without the necessary permits.
Job Lagrada, leader of the demonstrators barricading the area, alleged that Ipilan Nickel Corporation (Ipilan Nickel) has been operating without a Mayor’s Permit and Certificate Precondition from the National Commission on Indigenous People’s.
“We call on the [Environment department] to immediately intervene and issue a Cease and Desist Order against INC,” said Lagrada in a statement, adding that “It is time that the DENR takes action and hold Ipilan Nickel accountable.”
“We will persist in our protest actions and barricade until national government authorities take the appropriate measures,” he said.
A report on the Manila Times on February 24, however, said the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) has confirmed that the Mineral Production Sharing Agreement (MPSA) 017-93-IV between the government and Ipilan Nickel “remains valid until April 10, 2025.”
The report said the MPSA will allow the mining company to “maintain its exclusive right to conduct responsible mining operations in the municipality of Brooke’s Point, Palawan, covering 2,835 hectares, with 260 hectares already partially declared as a mining area.”
The town council earlier questioned the renewal of the MPSA in 2018 reportedly without the endorsement of the municipality and without clearances from the National Commission of Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) and the Protected Area Management Board.
The report quoted MGB regional director Glen Marcelo C. Noble saying that the 1993 MPSA was amended in April 2000 to conform to the Philippine Mining Act of 1995.
He said the NCIP clearance was not needed as this only applied to applications filed after the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act of 1997 was enacted.
Ipilan Nickel was said to have already completed the process of securing NCIP certification in preparation for the renewal of its MPSA in 2025.
Marlon Tamsi from Environmental Legal Assistance Center said several trucks have been transporting mineral ores from the company’s stockyard and loading them into barges.
Brooke’s Point Vice Mayor Jean Feliciano said the continued operations of the mining company are “highly contemptible and shows the gross disrespect of the company to the law, the local government and the people of Brooke’s Point.”
Mayor Benedito Jr. of Brooke’s Point earlier called on Environment Secretary Antonia Yulo-Loyzaga to cancel the company’s Mineral Product Sharing Agreement and to issue a Cease and Desist Order while the cancellation is pending.
Benedito said the mining company “has been completely disregarding my authority as local chief executive by continuing to operate despite my orders to stop until it has secured the necessary permits.”
The mayor’s letter said the company “has been wreaking havoc in the upland and coastal of our municipality.”
Earlier, Bishop Socrates Mesiona of Puerto Princesa expressed support for the ongoing protest against the open-pit nickel mining project of INC.
“Palaweños, for many years, lived decently in peace until mining companies came… their lives have been disturbed,” said the bishop.
He 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,” Bishop 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, Bishop Mesiona held a dialogue with the townspeople to hear their sentiments on the matter and other environment-related issues.