Mayor leads demolition of mining facility in Palawan town

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, Philippines – The mayor of Brooke's Point town in southern Palawan led a demolition of a mining company's facilities on Wednesday, February 21, claiming it has no valid permits.

Together with hundreds of residents and armed authorities, Mayor Jean Feliciano used her police powers and demolished several guard houses, including the gates and fences of Ipilan Nickel Corporation (INC) in Barangay Maasin .

"INC does not respect law, order, or anyone in authority. I was forced to exercise the police power of the mayor, as provided in the Local Government Code, to protect the natural forests, other resources of Brooke's Point and promote general welfare," Feliciano told Rappler in a text message on Thursday night, February 22.

Last July 2017, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) filed a criminal complaint against INC for its "massive indiscriminate tree cutting" despite the cancellation of its environmental compliance certificate.

The Palawan Council for Sustainable Development also revoked the Strategic Environmental Plan clearance it previously issued to the mining firm.

"They cut indigenous or endemic trees within our natural forests, which is also part of our watershed, using unlicensed chainsaws," Feliciano said, adding that INC has not also secured a mayor's permit.

The company had armed guards and barricaded its entrance with a truck when Feliciano's group arrived and served a written order for the demolition from the municipal government, according to local newspaper Palawan News.

INC's employees and company officials, however, did not resist when the demolition began at 10 pm until 7 pm.

In a statement issued Thursday, INC resident manager Ferinand Libatique accused Feliciano of violating the company's rights.

"The mayor, with utter disregard of the rule of law and the Mineral Production Sharing Agreement between the INC and the Philippine government, has not shown any demolition order from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources," he said.

Libatique said his company vows to press charges against the mayor and her cohorts.

"INC is preparing additional criminal, civil, and administrative actions to hold the mayor and her companions liable for all the immediate and natural consequences of the forcible entry and destruction of properties," he added.

Feliciano, a lawyer and anti-mining advocate, said she is unfazed and ready to fight in a legal battle with the mining firm.

"I'm ready to face the cases they will file against me just to save our exceptional environment and the lives and livelihoods of my constituents," she added. – Rappler.com