Anti-mining protesters blocking Ipilan Nickel's hauling trucks from going out of its site in Brgy. Maasin in Brooke's Point.

Brooke’s Point Mayor Cesario Benedito Jr. urged anti-mining protesters against Ipilan Nickel Corporation in Brgy. Maasin to comply with the court’s temporary restraining order (TRO), but added he will renew their rally permit if their organizers ask for an extension.

This comes after the anti-miners refused to accept the TRO on Monday, March 13, and claimed that they would continue to stand against the mining company, emphasizing that it is operating illegally without a mayor’s permit.

“Sa akin naman yong TRO ay naka-address naman doon sa mga nagra-rally, hindi naka-address sa local governement unit (LGU) at nakalagay nga doon yong mga hindi nila dapat gawin,” Mayor Benedito told Palawan News on Tuesday.

“Sa mga nagra-rally naman, kung ano ang TRO dapat sundin nila,” he added.

Sheriff Clodualdo Levita carries a copy of the TRO at the Brgy. Maasin protest line on Monday.

Benedito’s third renewal of the anti-mining demonstration permit expires today, March 14. But, he stated that he has not yet received a request for an extension from the organizers.

“Sa ngayon kasi, wala pa akong nakikitang request nila kung mag-e-extend sila, sa ngayon, ha. Wala namang report na untoward incident ang police or recommendation, [ang] sa atin ay syempre iga-grant ko yan. Kasi sa Batas Pambansa Blg. 880 sa guidelines, wala namang nakalagay doon na may limit ang paghingi ng permit sa mayor provided kung ito siguro ay hindi na peaceful,” he said.

Anti-mining activists blocking the Ipilan Nickel’s hauling road had refused to accept the court’s TRO when it was served to them by a sheriff on Monday and stated that they would not leave and will continue their protest.

Sheriff Clodualdo Levita was compelled to leave the three-paged TRO issued by the court on March 10 on a bench after it was refused by the protesters.

When they learned that the mining company’s trucks would go out, they joined hands to form a human barricade on the transport route to block its safe passage.

The TRO was issued by Judge Ramon Chito Mendoza of Branch 165 in Brooke’s Point to prevent the anti-mining rallyists from “stopping, apprehending, searching, obstructing or even approaching in and all the vehicles of individuals making use of access roads, including the main whole roads, the barangay roads parallel to the main whole road and access road in Sitio Panay going to INC or and to make their way to the mine pit and vice versa” for 20 days.

“Una, hindi ko kayo ididismantle sa ngayon. Pangalawa, hindi ko kayo gigibaan ng mga ganito [structures] ninyo. Ganoon pa man, may dala po akong order, babasahin ko muna sa English tapos tatagalogin ko sa inyo,” Levita clarified.

But the protesters insisted that they would stand their ground.

“Dahil nasa tama naman yong ginagawa namin, wala naman silang mayor’s permit. Kami ay mayroong permit dito sa aming rally, haharangin namin ang kanilang mga truck na lalabas. Wala po silang mayor’s permit, wala rin silang certificate precondition,” said Moharin Tambiling, one of the protesters.

The sheriff went on to say that if they do not accept the TRO, they may face legal consequences.

Ipilan Nickel’s message
In a message to its stakeholders on the issuance of the TRO, the mining company said, “As a company that adheres to the scientific, ethical and regulatory framework, we welcome this ruling that reinforces our core values. We now urge our local chief executive to demonstrate his sworn duty by leading the court personnel and the PNP contingent in implementing the court order peacefully and promptly.”

“As a joint undertaking between the government and our company, the mineral project is critical to achieving sustainable economic recovery and genuine environmental protection. Despite facing threats and intimidation from a small group of individuals who seek to further their self-serving agenda, we are exhausting all legal processes to restore order,” Ipilan Nickel said in a statement.

It guaranteed that it will continue to commit to creating healthy and fruitful partnerships with its stakeholders and communities toward a better future for all.

The issuance of the TRO came after Ipilan Nickel brought a civil case against Pastor Job Lagrada, Dominador Magdaluyo, Marcelo Polmones, the known organizers, and all other personalities claiming rights under them and occupying the mining company’s property.

The judge issued the TRO after weighing arguments and issues raised by both parties, including the verified petition and judicial affidavits filed by Ipilan Nickel as plaintiff.

“This court finds and so holds that the matter is of extreme urgency and the applicant Ipilan Nickel Corporation (INC) will suffer grave injustice and irreparable injury if this court will not issue a TRO in its favor,” the TRO said.

Palawan News attempted to reach out to rally organizers for comment, but they have yet to release a statement.