Philippine Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu has ordered Ipilan Nickel Corporation (INC) to stop its tree-cutting activities following an inspection of the company’s mining operations in Brooke’s Point, Palawan today, May 19. Cimatu has also asked the company to explain why they should not be charged with qualified theft.
“I saw the area. It was very unfortunate that this happened,” Cimatu said after an aerial and ground inspection of the mine site where the company has felled trees. According to the Ipilan community, the cut trees numbered to around 7,000 in an approximately 20-hectare area covered by the company’s Mineral Production Sharing Agreement (MPSA). The said activity was conducted despite the cancellation of the company’s Environment Compliance Certificate (ECC) on December 14, 2016, under which all related operations, including tree-cutting, have been disallowed.
The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) ordered the company to immediately show cause why they should not be criminally charged for violation of Section 77 of Presidential Decree No. 705 (Forestry Code of the Philippines).
The issue was brought to nationwide attention after Mayor Mary Jean Feliciano called for former DENR Chief Gina Lopez’s help.
“I am griving over the loss of natural trees. It’s too late. Masaya ako na darating siya (Secretary Cimatu). ‘Yung iba mga century old trees. Ang gusto ko na lang makansela ang MPSA nila. Sila (INC) ang pinaka-iresponsableng mining company sa buong Pilipinas,” Feliciano said in an interview.
On the other hand, INC Resident Manager Ferdinand Lebatiqui has maintained that their activity remains legal, explaining that Lopez’s suspension order was still under appeal.
Cimatu nonetheless said the company will have to face consequences if proven to have broken the law. “There will be no going around the law. You should be man enough to face the consequences if you make a mistake,” he told company officials.
INC is an affiliate company of Global Ferronickel Holdings Inc., which, according the company’s website, is currently the country’s third largest producer of nickel ore.