PALAWAN, PHILIPPINES – The Green Livelihoods Alliance (GLA) in the Philippines denounces the resumption of mine operations in Brooke’s Point, Palawan, and the Office of the Ombudsman’s suspension order on Brooke’s Point Mayor Maryjean Feliciano for her actions protecting the forested watershed from destructive mining. The GLA calls on government agencies to instead listen to the community voices who have long stood against the destructive mining in forested watersheds of Palawan.
On June 16, 2021, reports surfaced that the ombudsman issued a suspension order against Brooke’s Point Mayor Maryjean Feliciano, ruling in favor of Ipilan Nickel Corporation’s (INC) complaint on account of the local government’s orders to demolish INC’s mining-related structures within the watershed in 2017.
“The suspension order [for Mayor Feliciano] is troubling and can have a chilling effect on environmental defenders. If a local official can be suspended for representing the voice of her/his constituents in the fight against a destructive and extractive project, ordinary folks who are fighting mining can be harassed,” said Attorney Grizelda Mayo-Anda of the Environmental Legal Assistance Center, a GLA consortium member.
“[The] 25,000 trees cut by INC have more ecological value compared to the INC structures which were ordered demolished by the good mayor,” Mayo-Anda added. An estimated 25,000 trees were cut by INC in Maasin, Brooke’s Point, as part of its clearing operations in 2017.
A local Pala’wan women’s group, Mga Kalebonan et BICAMM (MKE-BICAMM) is leading a campaign in support of Mayor Feliciano.
“Kami ang unang impact area kapag natuloy ang pagmimina dito po sa bayan ng Brooke’s Point dahil lupaing ninuno namin ang miminahin. Unang maapektuhan ang mga kababaihan, pati mga sakahan sa ibaba ng miminahing lugar. Noon pa man ipinaglalaban ng aming mayor, hanggang sa ngayon, para sa kabutihan ng buong Brooke’s Point. Ang kanyang iniisip ay hindi ang pansariling kapakanan, kundi mas lalo’t higit sa mga katutubo,” the group said.
[Translation: We are the first impact area if mining operations resume in the town of Brooke’s Point because it is our ancestral lands that will be mined. Women will be the first affected, as well as the farmland below the mining area. From back then until now, our mayor had fought for the good of the whole of Brooke’s Point. She wasn’t only concerned for her own welfare, she was more concerned with the indigenous peoples.”]
The local government of Brooke’s Point, led by Mayor Feliciano, has staunchly supported indigenous communities, farmer associations, local residents, women, youth, and civil society groups’ resistance to large scale mines within the forests and watersheds of Brooke’s Point. The indigenous Pala’wan groups Pineuntungan Et KePelewanan (PEKP) BICAMM, and the Kabatangan Ancestral Domain ng Sampung Barangay (KAD10) expressed support for Mayor Feliciano’s anti-mining stance and the petition to recall the suspension order
“Sapagkat ipinaglalaban niya [ni Mayor Feliciano] kami na mapanatili at maprotektahan ang aming kalikasan na nagbibigay sa amin ng saganang buhay sa pamamagitan ng agrikultura, malinis na tubig at hangin, balanseng ecosystem na pinaninirahan ng biodiversity. Kaya, kung igagawad sa kanya ang suspension, para na rin kaming binalewala sa pagbibigay ng aming sagradong boto sa tatlong termino niya bilang mayor,” the groups said.
[Translation: “Because she [Mayor Feliciano] has fought with us to maintain and protect our environment that has given us bountiful living through agriculture, clean water, air, and a balanced ecosystem where biodiversity thrives. That is why, if they impose the suspension on her, it would be tantamount to disregarding our sacred votes that we gave her in her three terms as mayor.”]
Large-scale mining in Brooke’s Point continues to threaten the watershed as well as indigenous and local communities within the Mt. Mantalingahan Protected Landscape, the largest terrestrial protected area in Palawan. The INC mining site in Brooke’s Point threatens major water sources that supply close to 2,000 hectares of farmlands, and more than 20,000 residents in six barangays.
In 2017, the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development cancelled the Strategic Environmental Program Clearance granted to INC, as 90% of the mining site is located within natural forests and the core zone where mining is prohibited. That same year, a Palawan court issued a Temporary Environmental Protection Order calling on INC to cease mining activities and rehabilitate the forest areas they had destroyed. On August 26, 2018, INC’s Mineral Production Sharing Agreement with the government expired.
The Green Livelihoods Alliance denounces the DENR’s withdrawal of its cancellation of INC’s Mineral Production Sharing Agreement last June 2020, which extended the MPSA until 2025, recalled its cease and desist order, and restored INC’s Environmental Compliance Certificate.
The Green Livelihoods Alliance stands with Palawenyos’ resisting large-scale mining in Brooke’s Point, and recognizes the support of the local government, including Mayor Feliciano, to indigenous peoples’ groups, farmers, local residents intent on safeguarding the life-giving watersheds, clean air, water, food, and livelihoods threatened by large-scale, destructive mining operations.
The Green Livelihoods Alliance is an alliance that aims to ensure that tropical forests and forest landscapes are sustainably and inclusively governed to mitigate and adapt to climate change, fulfil human rights and safeguard local livelihoods in twelve countries in South America, Africa and Asia, as well as internationally, the Alliance works with Civil Society Organisations, Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities.
For more information on this story, please contact Gaby Alegre (09989595791) or Rowena Combang of Mga Kalebonan et BICAMM (09683759967).