BEFORE AND AFTER: A river, which was part of a watershed that supplied potable water to the nearby community, turned brown after more than four years of mining operations at Sitio Panay, Bgy. Maasin, Brooke’s Point. || Photos courtesy of Mayor Jean Feliciano

Brooke’s Point Mayor Jean Feliciano remains defiant in the face of an impending suspension order from the Office of the Ombudsman over her anti-mining stance.

Feliciano said she is awaiting a copy of the suspension order to be served, and stated she will “wear the decision with pride” even as she vowed to appeal the suspension.

“Masuwerte pa rin at nagpapasalamat dahil others died for their love of the country, samantalang ako, I will just lose a position,” Feliciano said.

Lawyer Grizelda Mayo-Anda, executive director of non-government office Environmental Legal Assistance Center (ELAC) which had assisted the municipality on the case, described the administrative cases against Feliciano as SLAPP (strategic lawsuit against public participation) suits.

“The decision is troubling and for environmental defenders like Mayor Jean who used her power to protect the environment and the forest of Brooke’s Point, it is actually a challenging decision. Around 25,000 trees were cut. You can understand why she wants to protect the area, and in good faith with no other personal interest,” Anda said.

The Ombudsman decision came at the time when the nine-year mining moratorium has been lifted, through Executive Order (EO) No. 130, signed by President Rodrigo Duterte on April 14, allowing the government to enter into new mineral agreements and review existing mining deals for possible renegotiation.

Ipilan Nickel Mining Corporation (INMC) environment compliance certificate (ECC) was allegedly revoked due to non-compliance of the terms set by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and the municipal government, while its mineral production sharing agreement (MPSA) has expired in 2017, resulting in a standoff between town mayor Mary Jean Feliciano and the mining operators.

Earlier this year, in April 15, Feliciano and Engr. Ferdinand Libatique, INMC mining engineer, had a heated standoff after Libatique refused entry to the site the environmental critical areas network (ECAN) team for an ocular inspection at Sitio Panay in the village of Maasin in Brooke’s Point town.

In October 2020, the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) MIMAROPA withheld the issuance of its permit for lack of necessary endorsements from key authorities.

Subsequently, the Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 165 in Palawan, through presiding judge Ramon Chito Mendoza, issued a warrant of arrest on March 16, 2020 against INMC president Atty. Dante Bravo and resident mine engineer, Engr. Ferdinand Libatique, for violation of Presidential Decree (PD) 705, as amended by Executive Order (EO) 277 and Republic Act (RA) 7161, or the Revised Forestry Code of the Philippines.

A long-time environmental lawyer, Feliciano said she will continue to champion the environment for the benefit of farmers and the local residents who generally relies on agriculture.

“Brooke’s Point is the food basket of Palawan. The vegetables and rice in Puerto Princesa are being supplied by our town. Kung masisira ang environment, paano ang magsasaka? Paano ang kabuhayan at kinabukasan ng mga tao,” Feliciano added.

Previous articleNarra waives rentals on public market stalls during pandemic
Next articleDBP unveils credit facility to boost pork production
is a desk editor and senior reporter of Palawan News. He covers politics, environment, tourism, justice, and sports. In his free time, he enjoys long walks with his dog, Bayani.