Nickel firm insists tree cutting in mining site legal, covered by permit
PUERTO PRINCESA CITY—Ipilan Nickel Corp. (INC) on Monday insisted that its tree-cutting activity in Brooke’s Point town in Palawan province, that was ordered stopped by Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu last week, was legal and “covered by valid permits.”
Dante Bravo, INC president, said the firm’s tree-cutting and earthballing activities were allowed under its environmental compliance certificate (ECC) and special tree-cutting permit which he said remained in force despite a cancellation order issued by Cimatu’s predecessor, Gina Lopez.
“The cancellation of INC’s ECC is a subject of a pending motion for reconsideration. Under the Revised Administrative Code, the pendency of a motion for reconsideration stops the effectivity of an order of a department,” Bravo said.
He also dismissed accusations by local officials that company guards had denied access to personnel of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources personnel who were tasked to inspect the mine site prior to the visit of Cimatu on Friday.
Bravo said INC’s special tree-cutting permit allowed the firm to earthball 14,439 trees and cut 13,490 trees in an area covering 52 hectares. He said the firm had only completed “a fourth of the allowable limit,” contrary to the claim of the local government that more than 20 hectares of natural forest had been destroyed.
“All trees that were to be cut were inventoried and marked by the DENR,” Bravo said.
But Brooke’s Point Mayor Mary Jean Feliciano accused the company of ignoring “repeated notices by the DENR suspending its tree-cutting permit.”
DENR officials, during Cimatu’s meeting with company officials in Brooke’s Point, pointed out that they issued formal notices to the company about the cancellation of its tree-cutting permit.
Feliciano belied INC’s claim that it did not prevent DENR personnel from conducting an investigation.
“The Cenro filed a report about it (denial of entry of DENR personnel),” Feliciano said.
She also said the company went ahead with its cutting activities without the supervision of the DENR as required by the permit.
Palawan Gov. Jose Alvarez, chair of the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development, said the council was set to decide on the cancellation of the company’s Strategic Environment Plan permit as petitioned by the Brooke’s Point government.
The company is seeking the extension of its mineral production sharing agreement, which is set to expire in 2018. —REDEMPTO D. ANDA AND RONNEL W. DOMINGO
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