Group vows more protests vs Palawan mine lacking mayor’s permit
MANILA, Philippines — The farmers and indigenous people protesting the operations of Ipilan Nickel Corp. in Brooke’s Point, Palawan, since Feb. 18 have vowed to stage more rallies against mining activities in their area despite the issuance of a temporary restraining order (TRO) against them.
The group of protesters refused to receive and recognize the TRO served by court sheriff Clodualdo Levita of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 165 of Brooke’s Point last Monday.
Brooke’s Point Mayor Cesareo Benedito Jr., who has been giving extensions to the permits of the rallyists, has appealed to them to abide by the court order.
“They should just follow what is written in the TRO,” Benedito said in an interview on Tuesday.
On Wednesday, however, he signed a new memorandum for the extension of the rallyists’ permit up to March 21, after the last one expired on Tuesday.
Not a requirement
“Since I have not received a report of an untoward incident from the police regarding the rally, I will continue to give them a permit in accordance with Batas Pambansa Blg. 880 (or the Public Assembly Act of 1985),” the mayor said.
The group’s members have been staging a protest rally in front of the mining firm’s office in Barangay Maasin to fight the company’s operation, saying the mining firm had no mayor’s permit.
In an email to the Inquirer on Wednesday, Ipilan Nickel resident mine manager Alex Arabis pointed out that the company does not need a mayor’s permit from Brooke’s Point for it to continue with its mining operations in the area, although he noted that the renewal for such a mayor’s permit remains pending.
Arabis also noted that the company has obtained a mayor’s permit from the local government of Parañaque City, where the firm’s head office is located, and this “technically affirms our operations.” The firm’s parent Global Ferronickel lists its principal office as the Penthouse of Platinum Tower on Asean Avenue corner Fuentes Street, in Aseana, Parañaque City.
“However, [a mayor’s permit] is not a requirement for us to continue with our operations. So we have not stopped,” Arabis told the Inquirer.
“Even though the mayor has not yet approved the renewal, it is not within his power to stop or cancel our MPSA (mineral production sharing agreement) with the Republic of the Philippines, represented by the President/DENR (Department of Environment and Natural Resources) secretary. This fact is acknowledged by the MGB (Mines and Geosciences Bureau)/DENR,” he said.
Ipilan Nickel already sought the Anti Red Tape Authority’s (Arta) intervention to move ahead with operating its mine site in Palawan town by filing a complaint against Benedito and municipal environment and natural resources officer Remie Mostiero “for excessive demands and intentional delays in the renewal of its 2023 business permit.”
The company maintained that it already provided more than what was asked of it to renew its license yet the local officials still have not issued the certification and the business permit more than two months after receiving the necessary documents on Jan. 10.
Business as usual
In a disclosure to the Philippine Stock Exchange dated March 14, Ipilan Nickel’s publicly listed parent firm Global Ferronickel Holdings Inc. said it is “business as usual” for the mining operations in Brooke’s Point given the TRO.
The order prohibits the protesters from stopping, apprehending, searching, obstructing or even approaching the vehicles of individuals making use of access roads, including the main road, the barangay roads parallel to it, and access road in Sitio Panay going in and out of Ipilan Nickel’s mine site in the municipality of Brooke’s Point.
The disclosure said that Ipilan Nickel has urged the mayor of Brooke’s Point to lead the court personnel and the Philippine National Police contingent “in implementing the court order peacefully and promptly” to end the disruption to the company’s mining operations.
Following the issuance of the TRO on March 10 by the RTC, Arabis said they would now seek both a preliminary injunction (a court-issued stoppage order while the case is ongoing) and a permanent injunction against the protesters. The next hearing is scheduled on March 17.
“By the way, the leaders and organizers of the protest and barricade were a no-show during the TRO hearing, practically abandoning their cohorts and causes, if they have any,” Arabis said.