Beleaguered Ipilan Nickel Corporation has found an ally in a community of native residents in Brooke’s Point, who have asked the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) to revoke the stoppage order that it issued against the mining firm.

The group is one of the two factions within BICAMM, and claiming it has a wider membership compared to those opposed to Ipilan Nickel Corporation (INC).

In a letter dated August 14, the members of the Katutubong Pamayanang Pala’wan ng Lupaing Ninuno ng BICAMM (Barongbarong, Ipilan, Calasaguen, Aribungos, Mambalot, and Maasin) appealed to NCIP Mimaropa regional director Dr. Marie Grace Pascua to rescind the cease and desist order (CDO).

They explained to Pascua that the free, prior, and informed consent (FPIC) agreement, which they signed with INC in September 2022, is not flawed. They understand and support its terms, thereby forming the foundation for their assertion that it should not be revoked, and INC’s mining operation should continue without interruption.

“Ang kanilang pagpapasya at pagpaplano ay walang pormal na konsultasyon sa aming mga ibang kasamahang lider at lalong lalo na sa komunidad. Matapos ang kanilang isinagawang petisyon ay saka lamang sila naglibot sa aming mga miyembro upang hingiin ang kanilang mga pagsang ayon at lagda na nagsasabi na hindi tinutupad ng kumpanya ng minahan ang mga napagkasunduan na salungat naman sa ginagawa ng INC sa aming mga katutubo sa BICAMM,” the group said in their appeal.

They also stated that the majority of their members were not in favor of the actions of the others, as most of them have achieved improved livelihoods. They even managed to send their children to school with the help of the mining company.

Moreover, the group said they are aware that the company is exempted from obtaining a Certificate Precondition (CP) and that it is not yet authorized to provide projects to the IP community until 2025, despite already doing so.

“Dahil nga sa tawag ng responsableng pagmimina at magkaroon ng maayos na relasyon sa pagitan naming mga katutubo at ng kumpanya ng minahan, nagkaroon ng pag-uusap at dumaan sa masusing talakayan na pinangunahan ng NCIP Palawan Provincial Office nasa loob ng humigit kumulang dalawang buwang pagtalakay at pumasok ang FPIC-MOA matapos manalo at makakuha ng mataas na pagsang-ayon sa operasyon ng mina ng INC at sa kasunduang ito kami ay bibigyan ng 17.5 Milyong piso kada taon para supurtahan ang aming mga kahilingan na mga programa at proyekto para sa aming kumunidad na mapasahanggang ngayon ay patuloy pong tinutupad ng kumpanya ng minahan na maibigay at mapakinabangan ng aming kumunidad,” they said.

The BICAMM pro-mining group also said that they have been receiving financial aid for hospitalization, burial assistance, scholarship grants for over 500 students, financial support for senior citizens, individuals with disabilities, and solo parents, along with incentives for para-teachers who assist regular teachers in various schools within the mining company’s impact communities.

They added that the ongoing operation of INC will bring additional benefit to their community, as more programs are set to be implemented. However, these programs are now at risk of being halted due to the issuance of the CDO, which is a consequence of incautious decisions made by other tribal leaders.

“Dahil dito, mas maaapektuhan ang nakararami na patuloy na umaasa sa INC para mas maging maayos ang pamumuhay ng bawat pamilya. Sa una palang na pumayag kaming lahat sa kasunduan ng FPIC-MOA, malinaw po sa amin na tumutupad sa mandato ng gobyerno at responsable ang operasyong pagmimina ng kumpanyang Ipilan Nickel Corporation na walang ibang hangad kundi ang magkaroon ng progreso, maayos at mapataas ang antas ng pamumuhay hindi lamang sa hanay naming mga katutubo kundi Sa pangkalahatang mamamayan na nasasakupan ng bayan ng Brooke’s Point,” they said.

Among those who signed the letter were women leader Matilde Baterna, panglima Arnel Abela, tribal leader Eljun Mablen, and tribal chieftain Josefina Nadayao. 

The CDO was served to INC on the morning of August 16, as confirmed by NCIP Palawan provincial director Atty. Jansen Jontilla. It was personally received by the resident mine manager, Alex Arabis.

On the same day, the Supreme Court (SC) also announced that it issued a writ of kalikasan against the INC after an en banc session on August 15, requesting the company’s response within 10 days with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB), and Celestial Nickel Mining and Exploration Corporation (Celestial Mining).

The SC issued the writ of kalikasan after learning from the anti-mining petitioners that INC’s Mineral Production Sharing Agreement (MPSA) covering 2,835.06 hectares of land located in Brooke’s Point is affecting areas within the National Integrated Protected Areas System (NIPAS), specifically the area within the Mt. Mantalingahan Protected Landscape.