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DENR stops Ipilan Nickel Corp. from cutting more trees in Palawan

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has cancelled the tree-cutting permit of Ipilan Nickel Corp. (INC) following Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu's inspection of the company's mining site in Barangay Maasin, Brooke's Point, Palawan.

DENR-MIMAROPA Regional Director Natividad Bernardino, together with Cimatu, issued the order cancelling INC tree-cutting permit on Friday.

The DENR MIMAROPA issued a one-year tree-cutting permit to the company on May 26, 2016 and is about to expire on the same date this year.

According to INC's resident manager Ferdinand Libatiqui, around 7,000 trees have been cut already covering more than 20 hectares within the 353-hectare land in its Mineral Production Sharing Agreement granted by the government.

Libatiqui argued that the company's tree-cutting activities were legal because of its pending appeal on the cancellation of its Environmental Clearance Certificate (ECC).

The Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB), however, said that the ECC of Ipilan was cancelled on December 14, 2016, thus the company should have stopped from conducting any activity, including the cutting of trees.

Cimatu emphasized that the company should face the possible charges to be filed against them.

To recall, Brooke's Point Mayor Jean Feliciano earlier said she would press charges against INC for supposedly illegally cutting down thousands of trees despite the cancellation of its ECC and having no mayor's permit from the local government.

Feliciano welcomed Cimatu's action, but said it had come late because a lot of trees have already been cut.

Apart from the cancellation of its tree-cutting permit, the DENR also urged INC to explain why the company should not be held liable for violating Presidential Decree 705 or the Forestry Code of the Philippines.

Sought for comment, Global Ferronickel Holdings Inc. President Dante Bravo said, "We already stopped any activity since May 15, long before Sec. Cimatu came to the minesite. However, it was unfortunate that it was still issued by Ms. Bernardino even before there was a proper investigation. Precisely, we stopped our said activity for the DENR to conduct an investigation first."

Global Ferronickel is the parent company of INC. — John Ted Cordero/MDM, GMA News