BROOKE'S POINT, PALAWAN – Members of the Samahan ng Magsasaka Ayaw sa Pagmimina (SMAP) led a protest action on June 17, 2020, against the Ipilan Nickel Corporation (INC) that resulted in the withdrawal of its security forces.
In 2016, The Department of Environment and Natural Resources revoked the Environmental Compliance Certificate of INC. Additionally, on August 26, 2018, the company's Mineral Production Sharing Agreement with the government expired and has not been renewed since.
"Nag-desisyon kami na hindi na dapat mag patuloy at makabalik ang pagmimina sa aming lugar para maproteksyunan ang kalikasan at ang tubig sa taas na ginagamit namin sa aming mga gulay at palayan," said Rudy Cataluña, President, SMAP.
"We decided that mining should not continue and return to our community to protect the environment and the water source that we use for our crops."
The mining site covers hectares of prime agricultural land and siphons water from the mountains used for irrigation by the local farmers. On June 17, SMAP conducted a protest action and was determined to permanently close-off the mining area and prevent any mining company from operating. The protest action led to the withdrawal of INC's security forces. Wherein, members of SMAP continue to guard the mining site to prevent the security forces from coming back.
Brooke's Point Municipal Environment and Natural Resources Office (MENRO) have also been closely monitoring the situation in partnership with the local community. MENRO officers are now housed inside the barracks that were formerly used by the INC security forces.
"We support our community members' actions. We will continue to prioritize the welfare of our people and the protection of our environment," said Mayor Jean Feliciano, Municipality of Brooke's Point.
Local farmers started their campaign in March. SMAP conducted a protest action in front of the INC's main gate, last March 7, 2020, to question the continued construction of inner roads and a small hydroelectric plant within the mining site's compound. Their protest led to a dialogue led by Mayor Feliciano, resulting in the mine's declaration as permanently closed. Additionally, members of SMAP set-up a people's barricade in Brgy. Maasin to prevent entry into the mine site.
On May 6, while the province of Palawan was under Enhanced Community Quarantine, local community members discovered that trucks continued to enter the mine site. INC created a new road via Everlasting Street with direct access to their barge, and continued to build fences and waterways for their silting ponds.
On May 14, members of SMAP decided to close off the gate to the new entryway. Additionally, on May 26, SMAP confiscated the backhoe used by INC to build their fences and waterway.
"The actions of the local community in partnership with the LGU is a welcome development in a time when the national government is advocating for mining as the tool to resuscitate the economy. This only shows how little mining contributes to the local communities and how harmful it is to the livelihood and lives of mining-affected communities," stated Jaybee Garganera, National Coordinator, Alyansa Tigil Mina (ATM).
ATM continues to support the actions of mining-affected communities in making a stand against destructive large-scale mining.