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Indigenous peoples in Palawan town oppose Lebach mining operation

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, Aug. 27 -– The mayor of the town of Brooke’s Point in southern Palawan and an indigenous peoples (IP) group there is calling on Governor Jose Alvarez to help them against the alleged mining operation of Lebach Mining Corporation (LMC) in Barangay Ipilan.

Mayor Jean Feliciano said Wednesday in local interviews that the town of Brooke’s Point does not want LMC to operate its nickel mining deposit project as it is destructive to the environment, and would allegedly displace people, particularly the IPs, who claim part of the tenement the mining corporation is proposing to mine.

The LMC, which was given an environmental compliance certificate (ECC) in November 2009 by then Secretary Jose Atienza Jr. of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), is now facing tough opposition from the municipal government and the group of Pala’wan indigenous peoples, who claim that the nickel project is not only destructive to the environment but will also cause division among them.

According to environment lawyer Grizelda Mayo-Anda, the IPs can be helped if they will lodge their complaints in various local offices, such as the provincial DENR, the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development (PCSD) chaired by Alvarez, and even in her office at the Environmental Legal Assistance Center (ELAC).

Anda said it is not enough that the IPs and those who do not want LMC to operate its mining tenement “to just talk.” What they should do is to approach local and national government agencies that can do something to stop the mining corporation.

“Talking and being interviewed by the media” is one approach, she said, but the IPs would be in a better position if they will make their complaint formal.

In a local radio interview, she also said that they are not neglectful not to see what the LMC is doing, which appears to have the green light from the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP).

With resurfacing of the LMC’s proposed nickel mining project in Barangay Ipilan in her town, Feliciano stated strongly that the corporation would meet serious opposition from her and the IPs.

Feliciano said even many other non-IP residents of Brooke’s Point are opposed to the nickel mining project because its alleged “beautiful promises” are nothing compared to the fact that they would lose everything with a destructed environment.

Especially, she said, that Brooke’s Point is part of the Mount Mantalingahan Protected Landscape, where many fragile flora and fauna can be found.

Anda assured that the ELAC will help the IPs fight for their rights against the proposed mining operation of LMC, and will continue to push for the strong implementation of environmental laws in Palawan.

For the IPs’ courage in fighting for their right, Anda said she has nothing but respect. She also assured that they too, are strictly monitoring the NCIP and the LMC to ensure that all decisions will be fair to the IPs. (PNA)

LAP/CARF/UTB

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