Mayor leads demolition of mining structures
PUERTO PRINCESA CITY—The mayor of Brooke’s Point, an agricultural town near the southern tip of mainland Palawan province, on Wednesday led hundreds of residents and antimining supporters in destroying the field offices and facilities of a mining firm facing lawsuits and government-imposed sanctions.
Mayor Mary Jean Feliciano, an environmental lawyer who was swept to power by the town’s strong antimining sentiments in the 2016 election, said she was exercising her “police powers” in ordering the demolition of facilities of Ipilan Nickel Mining Corp. (INC) at Barangay Maasin.
“We have repeatedly sent them closure orders, notices and demolition orders that they have simply ignored. I even sent a staff to deliver these orders to their Manila office because they refused to receive them here,” Feliciano told the Inquirer on Thursday.
The company has been in limbo after the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), under the leadership of former Secretary Gina Lopez, suspended its mineral production sharing agreement (MPSA) contract last year following a performance review.
The company was set to appeal the renewal of its MPSA, which was due to expire this year, but was slapped instead with sanctions by Lopez’s replacement, Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu, for illegal cutting of trees in its concession areas.
In a statement, INC denounced the demolition and vowed to file criminal, civil and administrative charges against Feliciano and all those who participated in the demolition.
“The mayor, with utter disregard of the rule of law and the MPSA between INC and the government, has not shown any demolition order from the DENR,” said Ferdinand Libatique, INC resident manager.
“Their actions have opened up the entire area to various forms of destruction, pilferage and hazards, as total strangers made their way into the area unimpeded,” Libatique said in the statement.
Feliciano, however, cited provisions in the Local Government Code (Republic Act No. 7160), which she said upheld the power of the mayor to demolish illegally built structures.
“The mayor has police powers to demolish structures that are illegally constructed and to perform such acts to protect the general welfare. There is a [Supreme Court] landmark decision upholding the power of the mayor to demolish,” Feliciano said.
She said the company did not challenge her demolition order in court.
Among the facilities destroyed by members of the demolition team, who were accompanied by police and soldiers, were guardhouses and office buildings mostly made out of light materials, and the company’s gate and fences.
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