DENR USec. Jonas Leones with Brooke's Point mayor Mary Jean Feliciano during the Network Briefing News via PTV4 with Secretary Martin Andanar of the Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) on December 17, 2020. | Screen grab from PTV4

Brooke’s Point mayor Mary Jean Feliciano has appealed to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to cancel the environment compliance certificate (ECC) of the Ipilan Nickel Corporation (INC) to protect its watershed and nearly 2,000-hectare of farmlands.

Speaking on Thursday during the Network Briefing News via PTV4 with Secretary Martin Andanar of the Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO), Feliciano said Brooke’s Point is flourishing as an agricultural hub in Palawan because of its rich lands but Ipilan nickel is its “enemy” as it is a threat to more or less 2,000 hectares of farmlands that get water supply from the dam in the area it wants to mine.

She said Ipilan’s mining site is also where their water system is located, supplying to over 20,000 residents in six barangays.

“Lalo na ngayong may pandemya, naa-appreciate ko ang kabuhayan ng mga taga-Brooke’s Point. Simula noon hanggang ngayon agrikultura kami, at ang agrikultura ay nakasalalay sa kalikasan… marami ang sources ng aming tubig, maganda ang aming kabundukan sapagkat marami pa itong mga punong kahoy,” Feliciano said.

 

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“Isa lang naman talaga yong aming kalaban dito sa Brooke’s Point at ito yong isang minahan, yong Ipilan Nickel Corporation na nagputol ng libu-libong puno sa aming bayan, sa aming kabundukan,” she added, claiming that the mountains where they were cut down is a watershed area.

Feliciano said the barangay where Ipilan cut down over 50,000 trees and wants to mine is Brooke’s Point’s “rice granary” and its contribution to their rice sufficiency is more than 500 percent.

Despite the cancellation of the mining company’s mineral production sharing agreement (MPSA) by the DENR’s Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) and the recalling of the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development (PCSD) of its Strategic Environmental Plan (SEP) clearance, she said Ipilan still poses a risk to their town because its ECC has not been revoked.

“Bakit po kailangang i-reinstate ang isang ECC na expired na ang kanilang MPSA? Yong aming mga resolution at yong recall ng SEP clearance ng PCSD ay nagpapatunay lang na ayaw ng local government unit (LGU), katuwang namin ang provincial government na tama na. Ayaw na naming papasukin ang minahan sa lugar namin,” Feliciano asked.

 

DENR clarifies issued ECC to Ipilan

Responding to Feliciano, DENR USec. Jonas Leones confirmed that Ipilan’s MPSA had been cancelled and its SEP clearance had been recalled.

“Tama kayo, kasama ang kagawaran noong tayo ay nag-file ng kaso laban sa Ipilan regarding doon sa pagpuputol na ginawa nila, totoo yon, meron silang violation sa Presidential Decree 705 regarding sa ating Revised Forestry Code. Yong sa sinasabing wala ng MPSA, walang ng SEP clearance, totoo din yon kaya hindi na sila dapat makapunta dyan at makapag-operate,” Leones said.

He said Brooke’s Point can expect that the DENR will not allow Ipilan to implement its mining activities without due consultations, permits, and other issuances from responsible government agencies.

Leones clarified too that the ECC has not yet been cancelled because the department is still looking into the matter and the “legalities” given the fact that Ipilan filed an apppeal.

“Makakaasa naman po kayo na kung wala silang MPSA at wala silang SEP galing sa PCSD, at walang consultation, walang approval through resolution ng ating lokal na pamahalaan dyan sa Brooke’s Point ay talagang hindi sila makaka-implement ng kanilang mga programa dyan,” Leones said.

“I-clarify ko lang po, mayor, itong ECC natin… ang naiisip siguro ng ating isang undersecretary sa legal, kasi ay dumulog din sila (Ipilan) sa ating department doon sa legal service natin, tinitingnan lang yong basehan kung paano maco-consider natin na cancelled na yong ECC,” he added.

The DENR’s policy, he explained, holds that if a mining company is unable to operate in five years, its ECC will be automatically rescinded.

Although the condition is there that Ipilan has an ECC, Leones said it does not mean that the DENR will allow the company to operate since it also saw its “matinding violation”. With a cancelled MPSA, Ipilan has to resubmit requirements and start again.

“Kung hindi kayo papayag na huwag mag-operate ang isang minahan, talagang wala tayong magagawa doon dahil you have that power and authority to allow if mining operation will happen or be implemented in your area,” Leones told Feliciano.

“Huwag po kayong mangangamba, dahil katuwang niyo si Sec. [Roy] Cimatu, kami po (mga opisyal ng DENR), na talagang kung papiliin kami, mas gusto naming i-restore at i-protect ‘yong Palawan, lalo na ang Brooke’s Point dahil sabi nga ni Sec. Cimatu, ito yong last frontier natin sa ating bansa na talagang kailangan naming tulungan ang lokal na pamahalaan upang maprotektahan ang likas na yaman natin diyan sa Palawan,” he added.

Leones reiterated that if local government units (LGUs) will not allow mining to operate, it will happen because their decisions are important.

 

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has been with Palawan News since January 2019. She is its managing editor, overseeing and coordinating day-to-day editorial activities. Her writing interests are politics and governance, health, defense, investigative journalism, civic journalism, and the environment.