Protesters gather in Brooke's Point to stand against the extension of MPSA of Ipilan Nickel Corporation.

Around 1,000 residents of Brooke’s Point town gathered on Friday in a show of support to embattled Mayor Mary Jean Feliciano and express their stand against large-scale mining in their town.
 
This came after the controversial Ipilan Nickel Corporation’s (INC) extension of its mineral production sharing agreement (MPSA) was renewed, but allegedly without the prior consent of the communities affected by the scope of the mine site.
 
The activity started with a motorcade around town followed by a rally at the Agriworld where representatives from the youth, women, fisherfolk, church, indigenous, and farming communities expressed their sentiments on the Ombudsman’s recent decision to suspend Feliciano for “abuse of authority” from a complaint filed by Ipilan Nickel Corporation.
 
Feliciano has long maintained her stance against mining has been instrumental in stopping INC’s operations despite the fact that the company was able to extend its Mineral Production Sharing Agreement (MPSA) until 2025 through the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).
 
Participants stated that Brooke’s Point has always been an agricultural town and that mining would destroy many of their sources of income and the quality of their natural resources.
 
“Bilang kumakatawan sa sektor ng magsasaka, ay tinututulan namin ng pagmimina. May kakulangan sa bigas – paano matutugunan ang kakulangan sa bigas kung miminahin ang ating lugar?” said Joel Luagna, a representative of a local farmers’ group.
 
“Sino ang magsu-suffer kung wala nang tubig dahil sa pagsira ng minahan ng aming mga ilog? Siyempre kami. Kinaya namin noon na walang minahan dito, at kakayanin pa namin sa mga susunod pang mga panahon,” said Norima Mablon, a leader of an indigenous women’s group.
 
“Maraming kabataan dito na nakapagtapos naman ng pag-aaral nang hindi dahil sa pagmimina, kundi dahil sa agrikultura. Sa pamilya ko, ang lola ko ay isang magsasaka. Siya ay nagtanim, nag-ani, naggapos, para may pampaaral sa amin,” said Ireneo Maestrocampo, a youth leader.
 
Indigenous groups in the protest also stated that INC did not obtain their consent to revive its MPSA and that this was a clear violation of the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act.
 
Indigenous Peoples’ Mandatory Representative (IPMR) Victoriano Colili also urged other indigenous groups to carefully evaluate their stance on mining in their respective towns. He stated that indigenous communities will not experience an improvement in the quality of their life if they allow mining companies to use their ancestral lands, despite promises of employment and the payment of mandatory royalties, as most mining companies in Palawan operate in ancestral lands.
 
“Nasa kanila na ‘yon. Desisyon nila ‘yan. Pero nananawagan ako na dapat suriing mabuti kung ano ba talaga ang naidulot sa kanila ng mining. Sa isang [mining] kumpanya, mabibilang mo sa daliri mo ang mga katutubo na nagtatrabaho doon. Ang mga yumaman, mga chieftain lang. Kaya dapat pag-isipan nilang mabuti,” he said.
 
Feliciano who was also present at the rally thanked residents for their support.
 
“Nagpapasalamat ako sa inyong lahat dahil narito kayo ngayon at buong puso ang inyong suporta. Kahit walang perang ibinigay sa inyo para sa  gasolina o pagkain,  sinasamahan nyo ako sa labang ito uthepang ipagtanggol ang kalikasan at kinabukasan ng ating mga kabataan,” she said.
 
Meanwhile, the Environmental Legal Assitance Center (ELAC) said Feliciano’s supporters have also petitioned the Ombudsman to retract her suspension, amassing a total of more than 12,000 signatures.

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