Palawan gov challenges mining foe to fistfight
PUERTO PRINCESA CITY—The plan of a mining company to expand operations in untouched virgin forest areas of southern Palawan has sparked a heated exchange between local officials, led by Governor Jose Chavez Alvarez, and environmental groups opposed to mining in the province.
Alvarez, who was presiding over a meeting on Thursday of the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development (PCSD) to discuss the proposed expansion of Rio Tuba Nickel Mining Corp. into Mount Bolanjao in Bataraza, objected to a position paper submitted by environmental group Palawan NGO Network Inc. (PNNI) and challenged its head, lawyer Robert Chan, to a fistfight.
Chan, executive director of PNNI, had written the PCSD objecting to the reclassification of areas covered by the mining expansion plan. The letter, Alvarez claimed, was disrespectful to the PCSD.
Environmental groups had questioned the PCSD’s issuance of a clearance to the mining project and a separate clearance to a plan to build a coal power plant in the province.
“What does he want, war? If he wants, we can square off, the two of us,” Alvarez said in an outburst that silenced the plenary body during the meeting.
Alvarez accused PNNI of “unfairly blaming” the PCSD secretariat.
“He (Chan) was unfairly criticizing the secretariat without addressing the issue to me. We only want to help the poor,” he said.
Civil society groups, reacting to the governor’s outburst, have demanded that he apologize.
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