SC issues writ of kalikasan vs. DENR, 2 mining firms in Palawan

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, August 16) — The Supreme Court (SC) has sided with indigenous cultural communities (ICCs) in Palawan, as it demanded explanation from the Environment department and two private firms regarding mining operations which it said “may cause irreparable environmental damage” and place residents of Brooke’s Point in danger.

The SC en banc on Tuesday granted the petition for writ of kalikasan filed against the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and its attached agency the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB), as well as mining firms Ipilan Nickel Corporation (INC) and Celestial Nickel Mining and Exploration Corporation (Celestial).

The petition was lodged by indigenous peoples of the BICAMM Ancestral Domain of Brooke’s Point in Palawan, who accused the INC and Celestial of engaging in unlawful mining operations and of illegally cutting trees.

In 1993, the national government and Celestial Mining entered into a mineral production sharing agreement (MPSA) covering around 2,835 hectares of land in Brooke’s Point, with INC as the designated mining operator.

According to the indigenous peoples, the contract area in the deal overlaps a protected area which is not open to mining operations. They also alleged that the MPSA was illegally extended to 2025.

The petitioners argue that the mining firms’ activities have adversely affected the life and health of Brooke’s Points residents, and it also hit the DENR and the MGB for their “inaction.”

In its resolution made public on Wednesday, the SC agreed that there is “a possibility of serious and irreversible harm” on the Mt. Mantalingahan protected area and the ICCs’ ancestral domain.

“The continued mining operations and excavation of nickel minerals lead to environmental damage in the said mountain ranges, as exhibited by extreme flooding and contamination of fishing areas, which continually prejudice the life, health, and property of the residents,” the court said.

With the issuance of the writ of kalikasan, the SC required INC and Celestial to provide evidence that would dispel concerns regarding their operations' potentially harmful environmental impact.

“The same applies to the DENR and MGB, whose inaction over the strong pleas of the residents of Brooke’s Point shows their indifference to the rights of the ICCs to a balanced and healthful ecology,” the court said.

The DENR, the MGB, and the mining companies were ordered to file a verified return of the writ within a non-extendible period of 10 days from receipt of the order.

Asked for comment on the SC order, the DENR said it “will have to pass on any reply given that the case is pending before the courts.” CNN Philippines has also contacted INC for a statement.