(File photo)

The Ipilan Nickel Corporation has asked the municipal government of Brooke’s Point to rescind its order permitting protesters to blockade road areas from its mining pit to its causeway.

In a letter dated February 18 and signed by its counsels, the mining company appealed to Mayor Cesareo Benedito Jr. to “immediately lift” Memorandum Order No. 2023-054 issued by his office to Pastor Job Lagrada for the conduct of public assembly at Maasin Crossing to the approach of Tagdidili Bridge, Purok 5 in Brgy. Maasin.

The order gave Lagrada and the protesters permission to congregate from February 18-21 against Ipilan Nickel’s mining operation.

“We understand that the right of peaceful assembly is an important component of a democratic society, however, it is equally important that such assemblies are conducted within the framework of the law,” stated the letter of the mining company signed by lawyers Michaela Alyssa Bundac and Chiara Marie Trinidad.

“The participants of the above-mentioned rally have shown disregard for the law and the safety and wellbeing of the public.
At around 9:30AM of February 18, 2023, protesters were spotted carrying bamboo poles towards INC premises. Within a few minutes, they were able to set up barricades at INC Haul Road 2,” added Ipilan Nickel.

The company claimed that the protest has shut off and obstructed the passage of trucks, and equipment from the mine pit to the causeway.

Some of the protesters also positioned themselves on mine haul roads, determined to impede operations.

Ipilan Nickel said their “act of obstructing the ingress and egress of the premises is a clear violation of the permit conditions, under BP 880”, which states “that the public assembly [should] not result to a serious or undue interference with the free flow of commerce and trade.”

The mining company also cited Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Memorandum Circular No. 2017-127, which states that temporary closure of a national or local road, alley, park, or square during public rallies under the Local Government Code (LGC) must be pursuant to a properly adopted ordinance.

The mining firm stressed that the demonstrators are also obstructing the company’s transport road, which is privately owned and is clearly violating BP. It added that it will not hesitate to pursue legal action against all violations committed.

“As a result of this violation, business operations have been significantly disrupted, leading to a loss in productivity and threat to the safety and security of our employees. It is clear the participants of the rally have failed to uphold their responsibilities under the law,” Ipilan Nickel further said in the letter.

“The participants of the rally have not only committed trespass to company property but have also engaged in grave coercion, which is a criminal offense under Article 286 of the Revised Penal Code of the Philippines. They have used intimidation to prevent our employees from accessing the premises and performing their duties. We will not hesitate to prosecute all offenses committed to the fullest extent of the law,” it added.

It also told Benedito that it has obtained images, including video evidence, to back its claims against the demonstrators who have consistently disregarded the permit’s guidelines and their security personnel’s warnings.

“They have repeatedly ignored the guidelines provided in the permit. Despite repeated warnings from the company’s security personnel, the participants continued to block the entryways, causing traffic congestion and putting the safety of our employees at risk,” Ipilan Nickel said.

It said that only Benedito has the authority to revoke the rally authorization, especially if laws are already being violated.

Benedito is yet to issue a statement regarding mining company’s request.