The Department of Justice (DOJ) has found probable cause to institute legal proceedings against two officials of the Ipilan Nickel Corporation (INC) in Brooke’s Point for illegal logging in around 1.5 hectares of old-growth forests.
In a 10-page January 10 decision, acting provincial prosecutor of Palawan in the case Ma. Victoria Suñega-Lagman, DOJ Office of the Regional Prosecutor Region IV, said there is probable cause against Dante Bravo and resident manager Ferdinand Libatique for violation of Section 77 (formerly Section 68) of Presidential Decree 705 as amended by Executive Order No. 277 issued in July 1987.
The decision orders the Office of the Provincial Prosecutor of Palawan to file the illegal logging cases against Bravo, Libatique, and others who actually cut the trees with the use of chainsaws, but whose names are not yet known.
The development in the case comes three years after Community Environment and Natural Resources Office (CENRO)-Brooke’s Point chief Conrado Corpuz filed a complaint on July 14, 2017, against the respondents.
Brooke’s Point mayor Mary Jean Feliciano, who received a copy of the decision on January 20, said it is a “welcome development”, though the DOJ took longer to find a probable cause.
She said although the DOJ decided that the illegal logging case to be filed will only cover 1.5 hectares instead of the more than 50 originally mentioned, they are already happy that there is positive news.
“Ang tagal nito kasi 2017 pa, tapos dalawa ‘yan ‘yong kaso. Isa ‘yong sinampa ng CENRO at isa ‘yong isinampa ko, ‘yong obstruction of apprehension. Tingnan mo ‘yan kung hindi mo babantayan, baka walang nangyari,” Feliciano said.
“Happy ako sa decision na ito ng DOJ kahit na para lang sa mga pinutol na puno sa 1.5 hectares, ang pinaka importante ay nakasuhan sila. Tingin ko tight ang kaso, hindi sila makakalusot dyan kahit medyo ma-delay pa ang justice. Kasi ganoon naman sila, I’m sure they will delay it,” she added.
Appeal to DENR
Feliciano said the INC remains conducting activities in Brgy. Maasin despite its expired mineral production sharing agreement (MPSA), one of three mineral agreements that the government grants to a contractor for the right to mine a contract area.
“Andoon pa rin ang kanyang mga guwardiya, may mga ginagawa-gawa pa rin sila doon, mga kalsada at kung anu-ano pa samantalang expired na ang kanilang MPSA. Ganoon talaga katigas ang ulo, ganoon ka above the law,” she said.
Feliciano is appealing to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to stop the INC from doing any more activities in the area.
She said despite the INC’s claim that it has an appeal in Malacañang, the DENR should be resolute in stopping its activities, reiterating that its MPSA is already expired and its Strategic Environmental Plan (SEP) certificate had been recalled by the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development (PCSD).
“Nagsumbong ako lately, dahil tuloy-tuloy ang kanilang mga ginagawa doon. Sumulat ako kay regional executive director [Henry Adornado], ipinasa naman ‘yon sa Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB). Pero sabi ng MGB, wala namang violation ang Ipilan kasi hindi naman nag-e-extract. Ganoon na ba ‘yon, na kahit expired na ang MPSA ay may activities pa rin sila at saka dapat doon pa rin sila? Ganoon ba talaga ang batas natin?” Feliciano asked.