The Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) regional office has urged the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) to help resolve the protest mounted by a group of local residents against Ipilan Nickel Corporation.

MGB regional director Glenn Marcelo Noble, in a letter dated February 20 and addressed to DILG regional director Karl Caesar Rimando with attention to Palawan provincial director Virgilio Tagle, stated that as far as his office is concerned, the mining company “has not violated the mining act, other policies, or the terms and conditions of the Mineral Production Sharing Agreement (MPSA) contract” it was granted.

The request was made a day before Brooke’s Point Mayor Cesareo Benedito Jr. extended Pastor Job Lagrada’s group’s rally permit until February 28 from Maasin Crossing, a provincial route leading to New Panay, down to the approach of Tagdidili Bridge in Purok 5, Brgy. Maasin.

Ipilan Nickel petitioned the MGB on February 19 to intervene to stop the pastor and his group’s alleged “disruptive actions” at its mine site, which began on February 18.

The mining company accused the demonstrators of hindering its operations by constructing structures and sheds across its main gate and haul road.

“Please be informed that as far as this Office is concerned, Ipilan has not violated the mining act, other policies, as well as the terms and conditions of the MPSA contract granted to them by the government, thru the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR),” Noble wrote.

“The MPSA being a contract signed by the contractor and the government, through the DENR, can be cancelled or suspended only by the issuing authority if it fails to comply with its contractual obligations and violates the mining act and its implementing roles and regulations,” he reminded.

Noble cited Section 11.3 of the government’s obligations in the MPSA that states it shall “ensure that the contractor has the government’s full cooperation in the exercise of the rights granted to it” and “use best effort to ensure the timely issuance of necessary permits and similar authorizing documents for use of the contract area.”

No directives to prov’l DILG yet
On Wednesday morning, DILG Provincial Director Virgilio Tagle told Palawan News that although he already has a copy of the letter, Rimando has not yet given him official directives.

“Wala pa kaming napag-usapan—so far, binigyan lang muna ako ng advance copy. Wala pang official instruction from RD Rimando. May concern kami dyan, di ko pa alam kasi naka address kay RD. Ang rally naman ay right yan, ang ano lang is kung paano ma-regulate,” he said.

Ipilan Nickel’s compliance
To this day, since its mayor’s permit expired, Ipilan Nickel has not yet been granted new ones, because it has yet to obtain the Municipal Environment and Natural Resources Office’s (MENRO) certification.

The reason why they’re is protesting against the mining company’s ongoing operations is the absence of a mayor’s permit, Lagrada said earlier.

“This is our support to LGU. Wala silang sapat na permits mula sa LGU. Pagpapakita ito ng pambabastos sa ating batas na sa kabila ng walang permit ay patuloy pa rin silang nag-ooperate. Hindi na nila mapipigil ang taong ayaw sa mina. Masyado na nilang nilapastangan ang kalikasan natin sa Brooke’s Point,” he said.

“Hindi na dapat sila mabigyan ng permit to operate dahil sa masamang effect sa environment at paglabag sa mga local policies,” Lagrada added.

MENRO Remie Mostiero explained on Wednesday morning that it has not awarded certification to Ipilan Nickel because the company has not provided “standard requirements,” which the previous municipal administration of Brook’s Point did not demand.

If it is able to comply, Mostiero assured the MENRO certification will be issued.

She said this means Ipilan Nickel has to submit latest required and compliant documents.

“As of this time, wala po silang compliance. Kulang yong mga requirements nila—tulad ng kanilang rehabilitation plan. Yong iba na submit na nila, yong kanilang amended MPSA, na submit na. Ang sina cite natin, dapat magkaroon sila ng previous records na sila ay applicant for renewal,” she said.

“For instance, wala silang Protected Area Management Board (PAMB) clearance previously, kailangan nilang mag secure ng PAMB clearance,” Mostiera added.

She underlined that Ipilan Nickel lacks PAMB and Sangguniang Bayan endorsements when it obtained its Strategic Environment Plan (SEP) clearance from the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development (PCSD).

New endorsements from the impact barangays, she added, are also required.

“Kailangan natin yong latest, hindi yong 2007, 2008, 2009—we have a new administration,” she said. “Wala silang MENRO certification as new applicant, pero meron siland SEP clearance. My question is paano kayo nagkaroon ng SEP clearance without those endorsements?” (with a report from Ruil Alabi)