Palawan nickel mining firm defying halt order: mayor

Rowegie Abanto, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 17 2023 06:25 PM | Updated as of Mar 17 2023 09:31 PM

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Ipilan corp insists it secured TRO vs protesters, submitted docs

MANILA (UPDATED) — A mining firm in Palawan continues its operations in the municipality of Brooke's Point despite lacking a mayor's permit, an environmentalist group and the local government said Friday.

Save Palawan Movement member Anabelle Reyes told ABS-CBN's TeleRadyo that Ipilan Nickel Mining Corporation's (INC) extended permit to operate expired on Jan. 31 this year.

And now that its permit has lapsed, Reyes said the local government of Brooke's Point ordered a halt to Ipilan's operations in the area.

Brooke's Point Mayor Cesareo Benedito Jr. said that the INC has yet to comply with the requirements of the local government for its permit to be renewed.

"Matagal na kaming paulit-ulit na nagbigay ng order sa kanila na huminto na sa operations kasi po wala silang mayor's permit at hindi sila nag-comply sa requirements na isinaad ng local na pamahalaan ng Brooke's Point," Benedito said.

(We have issued several orders for them to halt operations because they don’t have a mayor’s permit and they don’t comply with the requirements of the local government of Brooke’s Point.)

"Noong March 13, 2023 nagbigay kami ng order ulit doon sa resident ng Ipilan Corporation na kung saan na nire-reiterate namin 'yung aming previous order na mag-stop na sila ng operations kasi hanggang sa ngayon... di pa sila compliant sa kanilang requirements para sa renewal nila."

(On March 13, 2023, we gave another order to the resident of Ipilan Corporation in which we reiterated our previous order that they stop operations because until now... they are not yet compliant with their requirements for their renewal.)

While Benedito confirmed that the company has a permit from the environment department, he insisted that it still has to get authorization from the town.

"'Yan ang sinasabi nila pero 'yun po ay sa DENR. Pero sa local na pamahalaan kami po ang nagdedesisyon kung saan ang kanilang negosyo, lugar ng pagmimina kaya kailangan nilang kumuha ng mayor's permit," he said.

(That's what they say but that's with the DENR. But the local government decides about their business so they have to get a mayor's permit.)

With Ipilan's continued operations, the mayor said residents vowed to stay vigilant and carry on with their protests.

INC’s parent firm Global Ferronickel Holdings Inc meanwhile defended its activities, saying it had secured a temporary restraining order from the Brooke’s Point Regional Trial Court against protesters blocking mine haul roads. 

In a disclosure to the Philippine Stock Exchange dated March 14, Global Ferronickel said the order prohibits protesters from interfering in INC’s mining activities. 

“As a good corporate citizen, we are complying with legal procedures and exploring all lawful and peaceful options against the threats and intimidation tactics used by propagandists and saboteurs,” said Alex Arabis, Resident Mine Manager of Ipilan Nickel Corporation.

Global Ferronickel President Dante Bravo told ABS-CBN News that INC's mayor's permit in Brooke's Point is still pending despite its submission of "necessary documents" and payment of ecosystem tax of more than P10 million following assessment. 

The amount is part of the renewal application, he said. 

"It's really up to the LGU, not us," Bravo said.

This is not the first time that the firm and the local government had a disagreement.

In 2021, former Brooke's Point mayor and now vice mayor Mary Jean Feliciano opposed mining operations in her town, saying it would affect the livelihood of her constituents who depend on agriculture.

In 2017, Feliciano also claimed INC cut down thousands of trees despite the cancellation of the company's tree-cutting permit.

Global Ferronickel meanwhile has said that the Ipilan nickel project "is critical to achieving sustainable economic recovery and genuine environmental protection."

The company said INC employs 1,500 workers of which 90 percent are residents of Brooke's Point. 

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