The Green Livelihoods Alliance in the Philippines lauds the Writ of Kalikasan issued by the Supreme Court of the Philippines last August 16, 2023, to compel the the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB), Ipilan Nickel Corporation (INC) and Celestial Nickel Mining and Exploration Corporation (Celestial Mining) to provide evidence to dispel concerns regarding the potential harmful impact of a mining project to the Mt. Mantalingahan Protected Landscape (MMPL). Specific to the DENR and MGB, these agencies are required to explain their inaction to the pleas of the indigenous cultural communities (ICCs) and their indifference to the rights of the ICCs to a balanced and healthful ecology.
“The Supreme Court’s issuance of a Writ of Kalikasan involving the province of Palawan is a good precedent that recognized the possibility of serious and irreversible harm on the environment and inhabitants of Brooke’s Point located in the Mt. Mantalingahan Mountain Range as well as the significance of the forests and biodiversity of MMPL , and its value to areas outside of the province. This is a good precedent for Palawan in future cases involving mining and other extractive projects,” said Atty. Grizelda Mayo-Anda, of the Environmental Legal Assistance Center (ELAC), a member of the Green Livelihoods Alliance (GLA) Philippines. She added: “We hope that similar writs can be initiated to protect Palawan’s forests and biodiversity.” GLA Philippines is an alliance of civil society organizations, indigenous peoples and local communities, and social movements that aims to ensure that tropical forests and forest landscapes are sustainably and inclusively governed to mitigate and adapt to climate change, fulfill human rights and safeguard local livelihoods.
Earlier this month, the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) issued a Cease and Desist Order against Celestial Nickel Mining Exploration Corporation and its operator Ipilan Nickel Corporation. This came after a resolution of non-consent by Palawano ICCs of the Barong-Barong, Ipilan, Calasague, Aribungos, Mambalot, Maasin (BICAMM) ancestral domain, requesting the halt of all mining operations, for irregularities in the free and prior informed consent (FPIC) process, and INC’s operation without a Certification Precondition from the NCIP.
The Writ of Kalikasan decision was a result of a petition of the Palawano ICCs of the BICAMM Ancestral Domain in Brooke’s Point, Palawan, for destructive mining in their ancestral forests without FPIC, which also falls within the MMPL. The petition, according to the Supreme Court statement, was issued on the following grounds: “(1) the mineral production sharing agreement (MPSA) contract area overlaps a protected area not open to mining operations; (2) the MPSA was illegally extended to 2025; (3) INC and Celestial Mining are guilty of illegal cutting of trees without permit and even with the expiration of its Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC); (4) INC and Celestial Mining engaged in illegal mining operations without Certificate Precondition from NCIP; and (5) the environmental destruction was caused by the inaction and omission of the DENR and the mining activities of INC and Celestial Mining.”
The Supreme Court also cited, as grounds for the issuance of the Writ, the precautionary principle, wherein “a project proponent is required to provide evidence to dispel concerns regarding potential harmful impact of a project to the environment, shifting the burden of evidence of harm away from those likely to suffer harm and onto those desiring to change the status quo.”