The indigenous peoples commission has granted MacroAsia Mining Corporation (MMC), a subsidiary of Lucio Tan’s MacroAsia Corp., a certification precondition (CP) for mining operation involving 1,114 hectares of land in the southern Palawan town of Brooke’s Point.

According to reports, the company informed the stock exchange on February 8 that it had previously received a copy of the CP from the National Commission for Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) after meeting the conditions stipulated in the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA).

The CP is required prior to the implementation of any mining project as it validates that the Free, Prior, and Informed Consent (FPIC) of the affected indigenous peoples (IPs) has been obtained. The FPIC is manifested through an agreement with the IPs, who are customarily represented by their elders.

The proposed mining operation is situated on land that is part of the traditional territory of Palaw’an IPs in the barangays of Barong-barong, Ipilan, Calasaguen, Aribungos, Mambalot, and Maasin (BICAM) in Brooke’s Point.

“It is found that MacroAsia Mining has complied with the procedural and documentary requirements, thus the certification precondition for the aforementioned project is approved, subject to the memoranda of agreement entered into by and among the respective duly authorized representative/s of Macroasia Mining, the Palawan ICCs/IPs of Barangays Ipilan, Mambalot, Maasin, Barong-barong, Calasaguen, and Aribungos, all in the Municipality of Brooke’s Point, Province of Palawan and the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples, the affidavit of undertaking and related documents,” the certification stated.

“Once signed, Calmia Nickel, Inc. shall be allowed to explore and operate the mining tenement of MMC in Brooke’s Point, Palawan,” the company said in the disclosure.

NCIP Palawan director, Atty. Jansen Jontila, confirmed Saturday to Palawan News that Macroasia’s certification precondition was granted on December 29, 2022, by their national office’s en banc committee.

The CP was issued under Administrative Order No. 03, Series of 2012, or the revised guidelines on FPIC and related processes.

“MacroAsia [ang magmimina], co-operator si Calmia [Nickel, Inc.] Actually, 2010 na application yan. Ngayon lang na-approve yong CP—yong requirements of the IPRA, na fulfill from the local government,” Jontilla said.

“Ang kino-cover niya na ancestral domain is BICAM—although kung titingnan natin sa map, may political boundary, ang area lang dyan is a Ipilan, Mambalot, at saka Maasin—basta dyan lang sa tatlo lalaro yong talagang actual na location ng kanilang operation, at saka Mineral Production Sharing Agreement (MPSA),” he said.

He explained that the other barangays are not included, but are still part of the conduct of FPIC because to the NCIP, an ancestral domain is considered “one single unit.”

Palawan Council for Sustainable Development Staff (PCSDS) spokesperson Jovic Fabello told Palawan News also on Saturday that MacroAsia Mining was granted the Strategic Environmental Plan (SEP) clearance to conduct mining operation in 2010.

“Nag-apply sila ng SEP clearance noong 2008 pa, tapos nabigyan sila noong 2010,” Fabello said. Since he wasn’t holding a copy of the clearance, he is unable to discuss its terms and conditions.

CP not guarantee to mine
Reacting to this, lawyer Grizelda Mayo-Anda of the Environmental Legal Assistance Center (ELAC) said that while gaining the certification precondition is part of the process, it does not guarantee that MacroAsia Mining would be authorized to commence mining in Brooke’s Point.

She stated that the terms and conditions of its SEP approval need to be studied and reviewed to determine whether or not actual development and use are permitted. This is because a “great part” of MacroAsia Mining’s location is within the Mt. Mantalingahan Protected Landscape (MMPL).

Anda said that according to the National Integrated Protected Areas System (NIPAS) law, extractive activities are not authorized within protected areas or even immediately adjacent to them as they will be at risk.

“Our opinion is that it is not a guarantee that you can already mine. You need to apply for a tree-cutting permit, because nickel ore in Palawan, specifically, is found below forest areas,” she said.

Anda stated that, while they continue to be disturbed by the method used to obtain the FPIC, they respect it, but there are many other processes that must be in place before ores can be gathered, such as the environmental impact statement (EIS) that must be submitted and the environmental impact assessment(EIA).

“Gagalangin natin kung ganoon,” she said, but the FPIC cannot also contradict other laws’ principles and values like the Expanded National Integrated Protected Area Systems Act (ENIPAS). “Kapag ENIPAS, I also need to stress that old growth forests are automatically considered protected areas.”

She further said that Section 9 of Republic Act 7611, or the SEP law, stipulates that “all natural forests are constituted as core zones” that require maximum protection.

“To what extent will they implement Section 9? Kasi hindi lang yan simpleng biodiversity if PCSD is so gung ho about pangolin protection and other wildlife. Kaya kailangan mo rin tingnan yong wildlife act. They need environmental compliance certificate (ECC), and tree-cutting permit,” she said.

In the 1970s, MacroAsia mined at its Brooke’s Point tenement and shipped the metal to Sumitomo in Japan in the form of laterite. However, this halted when nickel prices fell and the firm was no longer able to support operations.

MacroAsia Mining has two MPSAs—MPSA No. 220-2005-IVB and MPSA No. 221-2005-IVB—recorded under its name. The MPSAs grant MacroAsia Corp. “the exclusive right to explore, develop and commercially utilize nickel, chromite, iron and
other associated mineral deposits within the contract area.”