The Regional Trial Court of Palawan Branch 165 on Monday issued a 72-hour Temporary Environmental Protection Order (TEPO) against Ipilan Nickel Corporation to stop mining activities and to start initial rehabilitation measures of destroyed forest in Brooke’s Point.
In a decision issued by Judge Ramon Chito Mendoza, the Court ruled against INC to cease and desist from clear cutting of trees, road widening and other mining activities in Barangays Maasin and Ipilan. INC was also ordered to undertake initial rehabilitation measures and restoration of the destroyed forest areas.
Last August 3, 2017, Indigenous peoples and farmer leaders filed a class action suit asking INC to pay for damages and rehabilitate some 25 hectares of forest that the company allegedly destroyed as a result of massive tree-cutting activities.
Atty. Grizelda Mayo-Anda of the non-profit group Environmental Legal Assistance Center (ELAC) explained that while the case is ongoing, the petitioners sought that the company should start planting indigenous and endemic tree species to prevent laterite run-off into the rivers, dams and farms of the farmers in the affected area.
“Habang nililitis ang kaso, ang hinihingi ng mga katutubo, magtanim na sila. Ipanumbalik ang indigenous species, kasi sirang sira na,” Mayo-Anda told Palawan News.
“In an ordinary case, walang action until manalo ka. It will be prejudicial not only to the environment and the forest but prejudicial to the people affected. Ecosystem services provide by this forest are very important for their livelihood and continuing survival,” she added.
Prudencio Danadio, one of the petitioners, said the area to be rehabilitated directly affects their livelihood.
“Due to the cutting of trees, the water in Ipilan river is now dirty. We get our water there for drinking and bathing. There used to be fish there, but since the water is already murky and reddish, especially when it rains, the fish are gone. The rice crops are affected because the water is already red and with laterite,” he said in Filipino.
“About 40 percent of our profit have been deducted every harvest time. The average profit in the rice field amount to 80 cavans per hectare,” said Joel Luagna from New Panay Maasin-Calasaguen Irrigators Association in his affidavit.
Executive Director Nelson Devanadera confirmed that PCSD, in a recent session, has passed a resolution for the cancellation of SEP clearance of INC. They have also recommended to DENR Secretary Roy Cimatu the non-renewal of INC’s Mineral Production Sharing Agreement which will expire next year.
The Court set the hearing for the extension of TEPO on August 10-11, 2017.