Security guards of Ipilan Nickel Corporation in Brooke’s Point, Southern Palawan, on Friday, April 14, barged into a human barricade mounted by local residents protesting the company’s operations and “arrested” six individuals before turning them over to the local police.
The civil society group Save Palawan Movement (SPM) said in a statement the rallyists were forcibly dragged by the company’s security guards. The arrested persons were local residents of the barangays Aribungos, New Panay, Maasin and Ipilan.
Local communities have been protesting the company’s continued operations despite not having a Mayor’s permit and citing its record of alleged environmental violations.
The rally, dubbed “Barikada ng Bayan”, had been proceeding at earnest over the last two months. The local government had given the rallyists tacit support, granting them a rally permit for the entire duration despite protestations from the company.
“One thing we are asking for is a mayor’s permit. They couldn’t give it to us. We are only fighting for our rights as indigenous peoples to protect our environment,” said one of the protesters.
Mary Jean Feliciano, a staunch critic of the mining company, expressed disgust over the arrests.
“They are our heroes, and yet they are the ones being sued. And now they will be jailed,” she said in an interview on a local radio station.
The Brooke’s Point local government has already served Ipilan Nickel with a cease and desist order (CDO) due to alleged irregularities in their operations.
“INC mining operations in Brooke’s Point are wrought with irregularities, lack of public consultation, and government permits, including operating within old-growth forests known as the ‘core zone’ or ‘area of maximum protection’ under Palawan’s special zoning system, the Strategic Environmental Plan (SEP) Law; illegal construction of the causeway without public consultation, no free, prior, and informed consent from the Pala’wan indigenous peoples, and no permits or endorsement from the Sangguniang Bayan and the Brooke’s Point local government,” the SPM stated.
SPM underscored that mining company’s continued operations pose a threat to the livelihoods, sources of food and clean water, and ways of life of local residents, farmers, indigenous peoples, and fisherfolk of Brooke’s Point.
Earlier, Brooke’s Point Mayor Cesareo Benedito blamed the mining operations for the recent flooding incidents in the town.