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Charges to be filed vs. Ipilan Nickel Corp. for cutting trees in Palawan

A Palawan mayor on Tuesday said she will press charges against Ipilan Nickel Corporation (INC) for supposedly illegally cutting down thousands of trees in Brooke's Point despite the cancellation of its environmental compliance certificate (ECC) and having no mayor's permit from the local government.

"After ng rejection ni Ma'am Gina Lopez as DENR (Department of Environment and Natural Resources) [secretary], 'yung Ipilan Nickel Corporation owned by Global Ferronickel nagpaputol na sila ng punong kahoy doon," Brooke's Point Mayor Jean Feliciano told reporters after Lopez's press conference in Quezon City.


Photo provided by the mayor shows the area where trees were allegedly cut illegally. Photo courtesy of Mayor Jean Feliciano


"Canceled 'yung ECC. May sulat yung PENRO (Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Officer) sa kanila na 'wag na kayong mamutil ng kahoy dahil your ECC is canceled. Pero tuluy-tuloy 'yung pamumutol ng kahoy," she added.

Ipilan which is set to conduct open-pit mining was one of the three mining firms whose ECCs were canceled by the DENR in December 2016.

Feliciano said she initially sent policemen to Ipilan to check on the situation. However, they were denied entry.

This then prompted her to seek assistance from the Marines and to personally visit the area.

"I sent the police. Hindi pinapasok. Ako po pumunta doon. Hindi ako pinapasok. Apat na beses na akong pumunta, hindi ako pinapasok. Kahit forest rangers ng DENR, hindi pinapasok at tinatakot nila 'yung mga bantay gubat namin. Sabi nila, 'Kung papasok kayo babarilin namin kayo.' Because they have several armed guns," Feliciano said.

"I called the help of Marines at sila po 'yung nag-escort sa amin because kahit 'yung pulis na namin are afraid to go inside. Dala-dala namin maraming tao. Sabi ko, 'Kailangan suportahan niyo ako. Kung barilin man nila ako dito, at least nandiyan kayo,'" Feliciano added.

Feliciano said that aside from not having a mayor's permit, Ipilan also does not have a Protected Area Management Board (PAMB) clearance.

"'Yung area po ay part ng Mount Mantalingajan. There is a presidential proclamation declaring the area as part of Mount Mantalingajan as protected landscape. Ang dami po nilang violations. At they have no respect at all sa batas natin. Mayor mismo hindi pwedeng pumunta sa sarili niyang lugar," Feliciano said.

The local government was able to seize three chainsaws. However, Feliciano said about 20 employees were able to flee.

"Nakatakbo 'yung mahigit 20 na may hawak ng chainsaws. Kahit 'yung mga chainsaw nila unregistered. Illegal po ang mga ito," she said.

Sought for comment, Global Ferronickel Holdings Inc. President and CEO Dante Bravo said that its subsidiary Ipilan Nickel’s ECC is still “effective and outstanding.”

“…because we filed a motion for reconsideration. Under existing rules, the filing of such motion stays the execution of the order of cancellation,” Bravo said.

Pursuant to the Section 9 of Administrative Order No. 22 series of 2011, filling of appeal stays the execution orders.

“We also have a tree cutting permit,” the company’s official added. — KG/RSJ, GMA News