Ocular inspection with Mayor Mary Jean Feliciano this year in the mine site of Ipilan Nickel Corporation in Barangay Maasin. | Photo from Green Livelihoods Alliance

The Green Livelihoods Alliance (GLA) in the Philippines denounces the resumption of mine operations in Brooke’s Point, Palawan, and the Ombudsman’s suspension order of Brooke’s Point Mayor Maryjean Feliciano for her actions protecting the forested watershed from destructive mining. The GLA calls on government agencies to instead listen to the community voices who have long stood against the destructive mining in forested watersheds of Palawan.

Last June 16, 2021, reports surfaced that the Office of the Ombudsman issued a suspension order against Brooke’s Point Mayor Maryjean Feliciano, ruling in favor of Ipilan Nickel Corporation’s (INC) complaint on account of the Brooke’s Point LGU’s orders to demolish INC’s mining-related structures within the watershed in 2017.

File photo of the ocular inspection conducted this year. | Photo from Green Livelihoods Alliance

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“The suspension order [for Mayor Feliciano] is troubling and can have a chilling effect on environmental defenders. If a local official can be suspended for representing the voice of her/his constituents in the fight against a destructive and extractive project, ordinary folks who are fighting mining can be harassed,” said Atty. Grizelda Mayo-Anda, of the Environmental Legal Assistance Center (ELAC), a GLA Consortium Member. “25,000 trees cut by INC have more ecological value compared to the INC structures which were ordered demolished by the good mayor,” Atty. Anda adds. An estimated 25,000 trees were cut by Ipilan Nickel Corporation (INC) in Maasin, Brooke’s Point, as part of its clearing operations in 2017.

Local voices petition to reverse Ombudsman decision in support of Brooke’s Point Mayor

Pala’wan women’s group, Mga Kalebonan et BICAMM (MKE-BICAMM) is one of local groups leading a campaign in support of Mayor Feliciano. They said, “Kami ang unang impact area kapag natuloy ang pagmimina dito po sa bayan ng Brooke’s Point dahil lupaing ninuno namin ang miminahin. Unang maapektuhan ang mga kababaihan, pati mga sakahan sa ibaba ng miminahing lugar. Noon pa man ipinaglalaban ng aming Mayor, hanggang sa ngayon, para sa kabutihan ng buong Brooke’s Point. Ang kanyang  iniisip ay hindi ang pansariling kapakanan, kundi mas lalo’t higit sa mga katutubo.”

The local government of Brooke’s Point, Palawan, led by Mayor Feliciano, has staunchly supported indigenous communities, farmer associations, local residents, women, youth, and civil society groups’ resistance to large scale mines within the forests and watersheds of Brooke’s Point.

Indigenous Pala’wan groups, Pineuntungan Et KePelewanan (PEKP) BICAMM, and the Kabatangan Ancestral Domain ng sampung barangay (KAD10) in (Brooke’s Point) expressed support for Mayor Feliciano’s anti-mining stance and the petition to recall the suspension order, saying, “Sapagkat ipinaglalaban niya [ni Mayor Feliciano] kami na mapanatili at maprotektahan ang aming kalikasan na nagbibigay sa amin ng saganang buhay sa pamamagitan ng agrikultura, malinis na tubig at hangin, balanseng ecosystem na pinaninirahan ng  biodiversity. Kaya, kung igagawad sa kanya ang suspension, para na rin kaming binalewala sa pagbibigay ng aming sagradong boto sa tatlong termino niya bilang Mayor.”

Large-scale mining in Brooke’s Point continues to threaten the watershed and indigenous and local communities within the Mt. Mantalingahan Protected Landscape, the largest terrestrial protected area in Palawan. The INC mining site in Brooke’s Point threatens major water sources that supply close to 2,000 hectares of farmlands, and more than 20,000 residents in six barangays.

In 2017, the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development cancelled the Strategic Environmental Program (SEP) Clearance granted to INC, as 90% of the mining site is located within natural forests and the core zone where mining is prohibited. That same year, a Palawan court issued a Temporary Environmental Protection Order calling on INC to cease mining activities and rehabilitate the forest areas they had destroyed. On August 26, 2018, INC’s Mineral Production Sharing Agreement with the government expired.

The Green Livelihoods Alliance denounces the DENR’s withdrawal of its cancellation of INC’s Mineral Production Sharing Agreement (MPSA) last June 2020, which extended the MPSA until 2025, recalled its cease and desist order, and restored INC’s Environmental Compliance Certificate.

The Green Livelihoods Alliance stands with Palawenyos’ resisting large-scale mining in Brooke’s Point, and recognizes the support of the local government, including Mayor Feliciano, to indigenous peoples’ groups, farmers, local residents intent on safeguarding the life-giving watersheds, clean air, water, food, and livelihoods threatened by large-scale, destructive mining operations.

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