The province of Palawan is part of the “Man and Biosphere Reserve” program of UNESCO and hosts 49 animals and 56 botanical species found in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
Botanically, Palawan, with an estimated 3,000-3,500 flowering plant species, and its rich mangrove forest, is one of the most diverse and rich islands in the Archipelago.
In the southernmost portion of Palawan, the Bulanjao range, with its unique ultramafic forest, is one of the best-conserved biodiversity hot spots on the island. A total of six major rivers from the mountain range supply water to both migrant and indigenous population.
Due to its sizable deposit of nickel ore, the range and has been subjected to mineral exploration and development by the Rio Tuba Nickel Mining Corporation (RTNMC). The company claims that this mountain could provide the necessary source of ore feed needed by the processing plants of the Coral Bay Nickel Corporation (CBNC), thus doubling the annual production of nickel. Two Hydrometallurgical Processing Plants are presently operating in the neighboring lowland area.
Recent GPS data indicates that road construction, as well as mining exploration and extractive activities on Mt. Bulanjao, have taken place in areas that, according to the Strategic Environmental Plan for Palawan (Republic Act 7611), fall into the so called ‘Core Zones’ of maximum protection. The mining road on Bulanjao has already reached an altitude of almost 900 m ASL causing deforestation, severe soil erosion and damage to the Sumbiling river watersheds.
The planned expansion of RTNMC into Mount Bulanjao range, highlights the ongoing confusion about the interpretation of environment-related policies and development-mining push.
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