Supreme Court of the Philippines

Supreme Court issues writ of kalikasan against 2 Palawan mining firms, DENR

Iya Gozum

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Supreme Court issues writ of kalikasan against 2 Palawan mining firms, DENR

HIGH COURT. The Supreme Court building in Padre Faura, Manila.

Angie de Silva/Rappler

(2nd UPDATE) The High Court finds that mining operations may inflict 'irreparable damage' to the environment and communities in the Mt. Mantalingahan Protected Area, Palawan

MANILA, Philippines – The indigenous peoples of Palawan secured another win, this time from the Supreme Court (SC), days after they successfully obtained a cease and desist order against two mining firms operating in their ancestral domain.

The SC issued a writ of kalikasan against Celestial Nickel Mining and Exploration Corporation, Ipilan Nickel Corporation (INC), the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), and the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB).

The High Court granted the petition for a writ of kalikasan during its deliberations on August 15. The petition was the filed by the Indigenous Cultural Communities (ICCs) of Barong-Barong, Ipilan, Calasaguen, Aribungos, Mambalot, Maasin (BICAMM) Ancestral Domain of Brooke’s Point, Palawan.

ICC-BICAMM said in a statement that the writ, together with the cease and desist order, only affirms that “the law is strongly on our side, and that these mining companies and the DENR would finally accede to these authorities and to what the law says.”

Grizelda Mayo-Anda of the Environmental Legal Assistance Center said the victory sets a good precedent for the anti-mining struggle in Palawan. 

“We hope that similar writs can be initiated to protect Palawan’s forests and biodiversity,” Mayo-Anda said. 

The indigenous peoples of Palawan have long been protesting the mining operations on their lands, citing the operators’ alleged failure to secure a Certificate Precondition, the illegal tree-cutting activities, and deforestation of Mt. Mantalingahan.

Mt. Mantalingahan is the highest peak in Palawan and of the Mount Mantalingahan Protected Landscape. The protected area is home to unique flora and fauna.

The writ of kalikasan is a legal remedy that protects the rights of Filipinos to a balanced and healthful ecology. In this case, the SC found that the ICCs’ complaints are present:

  1. The mining operations by INC and Celestial Mining may cause irreparable environmental damage to the Mt. Mantalingahan protected area and the ICCs’ ancestral domain.
  2. DENR and MGB’s lack of action exacerbates harm brought by mining operations, and in turn places the residents of Brooke’s Point in peril.
  3. Mining operations and excavation of nickel minerals damage the Mt. Mantalingahan mountain range which covers several municipalities of Bataraza, Brooke’s Point, Sofronio Española, Quezon, and Rizal. Residents of these towns had to contend with extreme flooding and contamination of fishing areas because of the damage.

With the issuance of the writ, INC, Celestial, DENR and MGB, were ordered to provide evidence to prove otherwise. They have to acknowledge the court order within a period of 10 days upon receipt. Rappler has reached out to INC for comment but has yet to receive a response as of posting.

INC said in a statement on Thursday, August 17, that they welcome the opportunity to address “recurring and baseless allegations” against motives that “undermine Ipilan’s legitimate operations.” Operations would continue, INC said, as the temporary environmental protection order was rejected.

INC maintained that they obtained a Certificate Precondition exemption from the NCIP in 2006. The company also claimed that they had refrained from mining in the Mt. Mantalingahan mountain range. The tree-cutting activities were conducted “under authority of a valid permit.” 

Early this week, the regional office of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples issued a cease and desist order against the mining firms. Last February, groups staged a human barricade to stop INC’s mining trucks. – Rappler.com

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Iya Gozum

Iya Gozum covers the environment, agriculture, and science beats for Rappler.