DENR to probe mine firm for bribery
PUERTO PRINCESA CITY—The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) on Thursday said it would investigate a mining company in Palawan province for allegedly bribing village officials in Brooke’s Point town in a bid to secure an endorsement for its application for renewal of its mining permit.
Natividad Bernardino, DENR regional director in Mimaropa (Mindoro, Marinduque, Romblon, Palawan), said her office had been notified of a complaint raised by Brooke’s Point Mayor Mary Jean Feliciano in the provincial government against Ipilan Nickel Corp. (INC), alleging that the company had bribed officials in exchange for an endorsement of their mineral production sharing agreement (MPSA).
“We are looking into it. If a company follows responsible mining laws, it does not have to bribe anyone to generate support,” Bernardino told the Inquirer in a text message.
Ferdinand Libatique, INC resident mine manager, denied the bribery charge.
“Ipilan Nickel Corp. strongly denies the allegations of bribery. We conduct our operations in accordance with all applicable laws and regulations and we strictly adhere to the highest ethical standards in our daily decisions and actions,” Libatique said in a statement sent to the Inquirer.
“To enhance our corporate image and to gain the support of the local community, we have been very active in implementing programs and activities intended to improve the quality of life of residents in our adopted communities,” he said.
Mayor Feliciano accused INC representatives, whom she did not name, of bribing officials in the villages of Maasin and Mambalot to secure barangay endorsements for the renewal of its MPSA due to expire next year.
“A barangay captain and several barangay kagawad (council member) received amounts of P50,000 and P25,000 in exchange for their barangay endorsements. This was according to villagers themselves and confirmed to me by at least one of the officials who received a bribe,” Feliciano told the Inquirer.
INC needs to secure local endorsements as required by the Philippine Mining Act to be able to renew its 25-year contract with the government.
Feliciano said the village councils of Maasin and Mambalot passed separate resolutions endorsing INC’s operations.
These resolutions were transmitted to the town government recently.
“But we will not uphold it, as we have already approved a municipal resolution rejecting [INC’s] MPSA renewal,” the mayor said.
The Inquirer spoke with one of the village officials alleged to have received money. The official claimed he received P20,000 from a company representative whom he did not name.
The official asked not to be identified, but indicated willingness to speak to authorities during a formal investigation.
Bernardino also said the DENR filed in the provincial prosecutor’s office last week a complaint against INC for illegally cutting trees in a 24-hectare forest in Brooke’s Point.
In May, Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu ordered INC to stop its tree-cutting activities following an aerial and ground inspection of the company’s mining area.
Cimatu, during his visit, urged the company to face up to the charges.
Bernardino said the DENR would also cite the company for another violation following a recent discovery of an illegally constructed mine yard road which she said was made “without clearance from the DENR.”
Board Member Eduardo Modesto Rodriguez, during a provincial board session on Tuesday, asked the provincial government to oppose the operation of INC, citing allegations against the firm.
“The town of Brooke’s Point does not want it (INC operation), and it’s an expression of my own sentiment. Mining should not be allowed in watershed areas,” Rodriguez said.
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