Published May 23, 2017, 10:00 PM By Madelaine B. Miraflor
The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has given Ipilan Nickel Corp. (INC) until today (Wednesday) to explain why no criminal charges should be filed against it over its massive indiscriminate tree-cutting in the town of Brooke’s Point in Palawan province.
The show cause order was issued by DENR-Mimaropa Regional Director Natividad Bernardino based on a directive by Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu.
To recall, Cimatu had ordered a full investigation into INC’s violations for cutting down thousands of trees within its mining area even after the DENR had stopped its operations.
Cimatu himself saw the extent of the destruction caused by INC’s tree-cutting activity during an aerial inspection and a dialogue with the officials of the company and the local government over the weekend.
Disgusted by what he saw during the inspection, Cimatu issued a general warning to irresponsible mining companies about “going around the law.”
“You should be man enough to face the consequences if you make a mistake,” said the former Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief.
Initial reports showed that the INC felled around 7,000 trees in 30 hectares of the 353 hectares of land covered by its mineral production sharing agreement (MPSA) with the DENR.
Although the INC has an existing one-year tree-cutting permit expiring on May 26 this year, the same was deemed no longer effective since December 14, 2016 when the DENR, under then DENR Secretary Gina Lopez, cancelled the firm’s environmental compliance certificate (ECC).
In the show cause order signed by Bernardino, the INC was given three working days from receipt to submit its reply. After which, the DENR will issue a resolution.
“We wish to state that with the cancellation of the ECC, all related mining activities including tree-cutting permit are likewise deemed cancelled,” Bernardino pointed out in the order.
On Monday, INC, a subsidiary of listed mining firm Global Ferronickel Holdings, Inc. (FNI), has vowed to work closely with new Environment Chief Roy Cimatu.
INC currently holds an exclusive right to conduct mining operations in the Municipality of Brooke’s Point, Palawan, covering 2,835 hectares, of which 260 hectares have been partially declared as mining area.
According to the company, it has been issued a Special Tree Cutting and Earth-Balling Permit by authority of the DENR secretary in May last year with a validity of one year.
The permit, it said, should allowed INC to earth-ball 14,439 trees and cut 13,490 trees in an area covering 52 hectares. The tree-cutting operations began during the first week of February 2017.