Palawan tribal leaders threaten to sue NCIP execs over delays in mining project
MANILA, Philippines — A group of tribal leaders from southern Palawan has sought the help of the Department of Justice in building up a case against officials of the National Commission on Indigenous People (NCIP) whom they are blaming for the delayed issuance of a document that would revive an old nickel mine in the town of Brooke’s Point.
Agustin Bacosa, vice president of the Brooke’s Point Federation of Tribal Councils (BPTLF), said the certification of pre-condition (CPC) should have been issued to the Makati City-based mining firm MacroAsia Corp. (MAC) 15 days after the validation was undertaken last March. However, no action has been done on the CPC application by the office of Commissioner Dionisia Banua, who is in charge of the Palawan province.
The MAC project, which seeks to revive a nickel mine left by a Japanese firm that operated it in the 1970s, is one of the few mining ventures in the country that are apparently not being opposed by indigenous peoples. The project covers the Barangay (villages of) Ipilan, Maasin and Mambalot.
Bacosa and 30 other chieftains and leaders of the Palawanon tribe—the indigenous people after whom the province is named—trooped to the DOJ office in Manila last week to inquire about charging NCIP officials with violations of Code of Conduct and Ethical Standard for Government Employees or Republic Act No. 6713 and the Anti-Graft and Practices Act or RA 3019.
The leaders were advised to seek assistance from public interest lawyers who could render them free legal services, such as the Office of the Legal Affairs of the University of the Philippines
Bacosa said the CPC was the key for employment opportunities of more than 3,000 indigenous people and continuing support of Macro Asia for socio-economic, education, health and livelihood projects and the schooling of their children.
Banua and the NCIP violated the provisions of RA 6713 and RA 3019 on the period required of a government agency to act on or respond to matters or issues referred to it.
The CPC, which manifests the endorsement by indigenous peoples of mining operations in the affected areas, is needed so that the Macro Asia can obtain an Environmental Compliance Certificate that is needed before the project starts.
The tribal leaders arrived in Quezon City on Monday last week and stayed until Friday spending most of their time camping outside the NCIP office to wait for a chance to have an audience with Banua.
Banua told the leaders that the validation report for the CPC was submitted to her by the team only on Tuesday. She pledged to table the issue for discussion in the en-banc meeting of the commission.
However, NCIP chair Roque Agton was quoted in earlier media reports as saying that he found no reason for the delay since the validation team that he sent made positive recommendations on the matter way back in March.
Bacosa said they would wait for the next NCIP meeting in the second week of June before they ask for the help of lawyers. He said the DOJ prosecutors they spoke to have promised to look into the complaint upon its filing.
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