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Residents of Barangay Maasin in Brooke’s Point town, particularly members of the Indigenous Peoples, are protesting the on-going construction of a causeway and jetty port of the Ipilan Nickel Corporation (INC).

Environmental Legal Assistance Center reported that residents have been complaining about the construction which runs non-stop.

“That is a challenging news kasi sumusulat pa ngayon yung mga katutubo kung bakit wala namang malinaw na public hearing kaugnay doon sa causeway. 24 hours ang pagsasagawa ng causeway at batay sa kwento ng mga mangingisda sa ELAC staff last week ay maingay, nagmu-murky na yung tubig and then yung mga lobster gatherers doon ay affected na yung kanilang livelihood,” ELAC executive Director Atty. Grizelda Mayo-Anda told Palawan News.

Mayo-Anda further explained that the more important issue for INC to address is its Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC) as well as its Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).

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“[Their] ECC was canceled during the time of (environment) Secretary Gina Lopez. And then it was restored last year, kasama yung SEP clearance. Ang tanong, noong iginawad yung ECC, dumaan ba sa judicious Environmental Impact Assessment at yung EIS ng minahan, natalakay ba sa mga mamamayan? Kasi mahalaga yun e. kami nga sa ELAC wala pa kaming kopyang nabasa na EIS. Kaya mahalaga na matanong yung mga mamamayan kung sila ba ay lumahok sa EIA hearing kung saan ipinahayag at tinalakay yung EIS nila. At kasama ba doon sa EIS yung pag-describe nung causeway pati na rin yung adverse effects nito,” she narrated.

She further stated that while the Community Environment and Natural Resources Office (CENRO) of Brooke’s Point issued a cease and desist order (CDO) against the causeway construction, it also gave an interim miscellaneous permit.

“So basically, nawalan ng saysay yung CDO kaya hanggang ngayon, lagim pa rin, to exaggerate yung sitwasyon ng mga mamamayan doon,” she said adding that while while the mining firm is conducting a Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) process, the construction is also on-going.

“Kaya maraming problema sa proseso,” she added.

She also said that aside from the on-going FPIC process, the two-part community consultative assembly has yet to be concluded and both IPs and NGOs were yet to see the results.

“Nag-conduct sila ng community consultative assembly (CCA) noong Sabado – yung part 1 mga katutubo lang ang mag-uusap para talakayin kung sino ang gusto nilang maimbita sa part 2. At natukoy nila yung CI at ELAC kaya nandoon kami para magpahiwatig ng aming posisyon at iba’t-ibang mga issue. Kasi yun talaga ang objective ng CCA 2 – ipahiwatig sa mga katutubo kung ano ba ang layunin, ano ang saklaw, ano ang epekto at benepisyo ng proyekto nila,” she explained.

She further said that with the on-going processes, they are also continuously communicating with different government agencies.

“Tuloy-tuloy yung petition at pagsusulat sa mga kinauukulang ahensya. Hindi kasi siya madaling proseso. The seawall project took us a year to file a case. Hindi kasi ganun kadali, kailangan mo ng eksperto, gagastos ka… kailangan ng scientific basis,” she said.

“Yun yung reyalidad sa Pilipinas e. Sa Narra Nickel lang, angtagal nilang dinanas yung problema. Nag-file kami ng case noong 2012 and nanalo noong 2014. But between 2004 up to 2012 and hanggang ngayon, tuloy-tuloy sya e. yun talaga yung hindi nakikita ng mga ahensya ng gobyerno,” she added.

Meanwhile, Ruel Asuncion of INC said the construction of the causeway is being done on a 24-hour basis because they need to finish the soonest possible time.

He said should residents have any grievances, they can get in touch with their office in Barangay Maasin.

“Usually 24 hours naman talaga kasi we have the permit to construct naman, and we are trying to (fast track) kasi magtatag-ulan na rin kaya gusto na rin naming tapusin,” Asuncion said.

“We have an office naman doon, so open naman yung communication namin with the community. Actually, yung mga lobster growers doon natulungan na rin naman namin sila ng livelihood. They can talk to our community relations office kung may mga grievances sila, kami naman we’re always open,” he added.

Asuncion also said the CCA is still on-going in the area with the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) as the lead agency.

“The CCA is currently being conducted, kasi first series pa lang sya, that’s being conducted by the NCIP. Fina-facilitate, ino-organize lang namin pero hindi kami talaga kasi that’s part of the process ng NCIP. Kami, we’re just following their lead. I think may two or three rounds pa before they actually have voting. Actually, meron ngayon sa Brgy. Aribungos. And it depends on the community also kasi minsan dalawang CCA lang nagbobotohan na sila,” he said.

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