AROUND 700-1,000 youth, residents and indigenous peoples of Brooke’s Point in southern Palawan have been barricading in the streets since Saturday to protest the open-pit nickel mining in their municipality.
They barricaded themselves in front of the Ipilan Nickel Corp. (INC) main office along Maasin Crossing. At night, they hold prayer vigil and candle lighting
Bishop Socrates Mesiona of Puerto Princesa City personally went to the campsite to listen the demands of the demonstrators.
“Palaweños, for many years, lived decently in peace until mining companies came… their lives have been disturbed,” Mesiona said, as quoted by the news report of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) website.
City Mayor Cesareo Benedito Jr. has also extended today, February 21, the permit of the protestors to peacefully gather in front of the INC office until Tuesday next week, February 28.
MPSA expired, no mayor’s permit
Brookespoint residents are demanding the INC to stop its operations over the lack of necessary permits.
Ipilan Nickel had secured a strategic environment clearance from the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development, as well as a mayor’s permit from then acting Brookespoint Mayor Georjalyn Joy Quiachon-Abarca in 2021.
However, on February 6, 2023, incumbent Mayor Benito Jr. issued an order for the INC to stop operations, noting that the mayor’s permit has already expired on December 31, 2022.
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Base on the central database of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB), the Mineral Production Sharing Agreement of the INC has also “expired” in 2020 following the directive of then Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu to conform with mining laws.
Flooding in Brooke’s Point
Brooke’s Point suffered its worst massive flooding in almost 50 years last December 2022 and January 2023. Residents blamed the mining company for cutting down thousands of trees from the watershed.
The prelate said the “terrifying” flashflood that inundated the town’s several villages “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.
Jaybee Garganera, the 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.”
Ipilan Nickel Mining reaction
RepublicAsia Media has reached out to Ipilan Nickel Mining but has yet to receive a response.
But Palawan media published the statement of Ipilan Mining during the committee hearing of Sangguniang Panlalawigan ng Palawan. The highlight of the statement:
- Discharge from mine pit are clean, no soil erosion or landslide in the minepit during the December 26 and January 4 rains
- Consultations were held with IPs from villages in 2022. A total of 3,739 voted in favor of the nickel mining
- Re mayor’s permit, the INC has submitted requirements for the renewal of their permit on January 10, 2023 and awaiting assessment from Treasurer’s Office for the amount of business taxes they need to pay
- INC has employed close to 1,500 residents, around 90 percent are from Brooke’s Point, 28 percent are IPs.
Last week, geologists from the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) MIMAROPA Region 4 said that nickel mining did not cause flooding in Brooke’s Point.
Geologists said the heavy rainfall that lasted for days caused the flooding in the downstream communities of Brooke’s Point, “with or without mining tenement claims in the upstream areas.”
The heavy rains overflowed the river systems, increasing the susceptibility of landslides in mountainous areas. with reports from Ruth Rodriguez from Palawan