The Committee on Environment of the Provincial Board has summoned acting Brooke’s Point mayor Georjalyn Quiachon-Abarca to explain her decision to grant controversial mining firm Ipilan Nickel Corporation (INC) its long-sought mining permit.
Mayor Abarca did not show up at the committee’s hearing Tuesday, which was prompted by a privilege speech of Board Member Cesario Benedito Jr.
Benedito questioned the basis for the issuance of a permit, stating that the previous endorsement issued by the municipal council in 2010, while he was Vice Mayor of the town, was no longer valid.
“May resolution kami dati at ngayon na lang nasundan [ng update sa resolution na ‘yon]. Tingin ko dapat kung kukuha sila magpapasa ulit sila ng panibago o babalik sila sa unang proseso. Kasi ang resolution ay sentiment lang naman ‘yon kaya ‘yon lang naman ang sa amin kung valid pa ba [na gamitin nila ang resolution na ‘yon],” Benedito said.
Abarca issued the permit last September 29, granting INC authority to operate in Barangay Maasin.
The company had long been at loggerheads with Mayor Jean Feliciano who strongly opposed mining operations in the town. It succeeded, however, in getting Feliciano suspended when the Ombudsman upheld its petition challenging Feliciano’s refusal to issue a mayor’s permit.
Benedito admitted that he had previously supported the mining project of INC but had a change of heart.
“Hindi ko naman tinatago na dati ay pro-mining ako pero nagbago ‘yon noong nakita ko ang epekto sa atin lalo na maraming puno na ang pinutol sa Ipilan,” he said.
Benedito also stressed that his stand on the matter is based on the sentiment of the local residents of Brooke’s Point.
“Ito ay sa pananaw ko lang at dahil na rin sa ipinaabot sa atin ng mga kababayan natin kung may validity ang mayor’s permit na binigay,” he stated.
“Wala itong kinalaman sa pulitika kasi kung valid naman [ang permit] ay taumbayan na nag bahalang humusga doon. Sa atin naman, pinarating lang natin sa plenaryo,” he added.
Palawan News has sought for a reaction from Acting Mayor Abarca but she has yet to reply.