Environment stops operations of Ipilan Nickel in Palawan

The Environment Department said it stopped the operations of Ipilan Nickel Corp. in Brooke’s Point, Palawan for operating without an environmental compliance certificate.

The department said the regional office of the Environmental Management Bureau in Mimaropa issued a cease and desist order against INC on July 21 for “continuously implementing its project without a valid ECC.” Mimaropa, or Region IV-B, covers the provinces of Occidental Mindoro, Oriental Mindoro, Marinduque, Romblon and Palawan.

INC is a subsidiary of listed mining company Global Ferronickel Inc., which booked a net income of P148.8 million in the first half on increased nickel prices in China, its main market.

INC’s environmental compliance certificate was cancelled in December by former Environment secretary Regina Lopez over the company’s alleged failure to start its project within the required five-year period from the issuance of the permit.

The Environment Department said the cease-and-desist order was an offshoot of an inspection conducted by EMB and representatives from the Mines and Geosciences Bureau, the local government of Brooke’s Point and civil society organizations within INC’s area of operations.

The inspection team discovered that INC had constructed a mine yard road within its mining area even after the ECC was cancelled.

The team also noted that INC’s activities following the cancellation of its permit “are causing the release of pollutants brought about by the silt deposition from the road, thus placing the environment at risk and imminent danger.”

DENR Mimaropa regional director Natividad Bernardino warned on July 24 that “any further actions by INC may be dealt with by law” after receiving reports that the firm was building some structures in Barangays Maasin and Ipilan.

Three days later, Palawan Council for Sustainable Development, an attached agency of the Environment Department, revoked the strategic environmental plan clearance issued to INC in 2010.

PCSD said in its Resolution No. 17-588 that no SEP clearance should have been issued to INC in the first place because the areas where it was operating in were “considered areas of maximum protection.”

PCSD also noted other violations allegedly committed by INC, including its failure to secure permit from the municipal government of Brooke’s Point.

PCSD, in a separate resolution, with number 17-589, agreed to recommend to Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu the cancellation of INC’s mineral production sharing agreement.

“We hope that through these moves, we are able to show how serious we are in protecting the environment,” Bernardino said.

“Mining must serve the development needs of our country and must not compromise our environment. We will not tolerate companies that do otherwise,” said Bernardino.

INC is also facing strong opposition from the local government in Palawan.

Palawan provincial board member Eduardo Modesto Rodriguez called on the DENR to revoke INC’s mining permit allegedly for “violating environmental protection laws and disrespecting local government officials.”

The DENR also filed with the Office of the Provincial Prosecutor of Palawan a criminal complaint against INC over its “massive indiscriminate tree cutting in Brooke’s Point.”

The agency accused the company of cutting 677 trees, mostly hardwood species, in an area not covered by the tree cutting permit it secured last year in violation of Section 77 of Presidential Decree No. 705, or the Forestry Code of the Philippines.