DAVAO CITY, Philippines—As a litmus test to the environment secretary, an environmental group on Friday urged DENR chief Roy Cimatu to close down the Ipilan mining firm for cutting some 15, 000 trees in Palawan province.
Clemente Bautista, national coordinator of Kalikasan PNE, said that Cimatu should likewise uphold the reforms in the DENR started by Gina Lopez, specifically the mine closure and suspension orders.
“We demand Cimatu to uphold the historic mine closures and other initial reforms begun by the DENR through the marching orders of President Rodrigo Duterte himself,” Bautista said.
The Ipila Nickel Corp, one of the large-scale mining companies operating in Palawan province, pushed its clearing operation despite the absence of permits from the local government unit of Brooke Point. The mining firm cut the trees down even without the environmental clearance certificate.
“If Cimatu claims that he will maintain a ‘status quo’ on his predecessor’s mine closure orders, he should immediately revoke the mining permit of Global Ferronickel and fully close its mining operation,” said Bautista.
According to the group, the 343.3-hectare Ipilan nickel mining project, owned by a subsidiary of Global Ferronickel Holdings Inc. was one of the 28 commercially operating large-scale mines that were closed by then-DENR secretary Gina Lopez after a nationwide mining industry audit found these projects violating various mining regulations.
The mining firm was even accused by the local government officials of Brooke’s Point of illegally clearing 10 hectares of virgin forests in the said area.
Kalikasan PNE has also raised alarm over Cimatu’s history of colluding with the large-scale logging firm Alcantara and Sons (Alsons) back in 1994.
Cimatu, according to the group, helped the logging firm “secure logging tenements against indigenous groups that declared a tribal war against their attempts at expansion.”
Bautista said that this was “one of the first instances that AFP assigned military detachments and organized paramilitary groups to secure big business interests.”
“Cimatu has a track record of protecting interests of big loggers and violating human rights. The ex-general’s recent pronouncements are favourable to the business-as-usual ‘responsible mining’ track of large-scale mining plunderers,” he said.
The group added that it feared “the worsening militarization of the bureaucracy will worsen the impunity in communities opposing environmentally destructive projects and even secure big business polluters and plunderers.” (davaotoday.com)