Indigenous opposition to the proposed activities of MacroAsia Corporation (MAC), Ipilan Nickel Corporation (INC) and LEBACH, on Palawan Island, has been constant during the past years, culminating in numerous street protests in 2010. The communities themselves through the assistance of local networks [Ancestral Land/Domain Watch (ALDAW)] and indigenous federations [NATRIPAL (Nagkakaisang mga Tribu ng Palawan)] and with the support of foreign academic institutions (Centre for Biocultural Diversity (CBCD) at the University of Kent (UK), have been able to acquire reliable technical data (GPS measurements, photographic and audio-visual documentation, etc.) indicating that the Mineral MPSA areas of MacroAsia, INC and LEBACH are located in ecologically valuable areas which includes watersheds, hunting/agricultural grounds, extractive reserves of Non-Timber Forest Products (NTFPs) such as Almaciga (Agathis philippinensis) resin and farming land on which both indigenous communities and farmers depend for their daily subsistence. Also indigenous peoples’ sacred and worship sites are found within the mining tenements of the above-mentioned companies.

This video (most the shootings were taken on July 2010) provides clear evidence on how MacroAsia test-pits have been excavated in areas of pristine virgin forest, and also at high altitudes (e.g. around and above 1,000 meters ASL). Under the ECAN Guidelines of the Strategic Environmental Plan for Palawan (Republic Act 7611) ‘core zones’ are defined as “areas above 1,000 meters in elevation, virgin forests or primary growth forests, areas with steep gradient (above 50% slope), and critically threatened/endangered habitats and habitats of rare endangered species or habitats of Palawan local endemic species of flora and fauna”. This zone, according to the SEP law, shall be fully and strictly protected and maintained free of human disruption.

The Palawan tribes of Brookes’ Point Municipality have bitterly complained that MAC, INC and LEBACH have failed to secure the needed social acceptability requirements; as a matter of fact the local communities have never been consulted about the implementation of mining exploration and extractive activities in their Ancestral Land.

Overall the most important complaints of local NGOs and Indigenous Advocate organizations against MAC and INC, can be summarized as it follows: I) Violation of The Strategic Environmental Plan (SEP) and Indigenous Peoples’ Right Act (IPRA) laws; II) Violation of the Philippine Mining Act no. 7942, III) Specifically, MAC and INC MPSA areas are located within the Mount Mantalingahan Protected Landscape (MMPL); IV) Unconstitutionality and illegality of the procedures leading to the resolutions endorsing the operations of MAC and INC by the Sangguniang Bayan of Brooke’s Point and the Sangguniang Panlalawigan of Palawan; V) Issuances of SEP clearances to mining companies, which overstep the bounds of the SEP law that the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development (PCSD) is mandated to uphold, VI) Violation of International Convention signed by the Philippine Government; VII) Disregard for foreign/international growing concern and appeal to National and Provincial Governments to spare Palawan from Mining exploitation.

On December 21, the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development (PCSD) [in the absence of the chair, NGO representative, and with the vice governor opposing] affirmed the decision of the PCSD executive committee made last December 4, 2010, to issue Strategic Environmental Plan (SEP) clearances to Macro Asia Mining Corporation and Ipilan Nickel Mining Corporation (INC).
According to the Environmental Legal Environmental Center (ELAC) such clearances would enable these mining corporations to conduct large-scale mining operations within natural forests, protected areas and within the ancestral domain of the Palawan indigenous peoples. According to the SEP, the affected areas are classified as ‘strict protection’ or ‘core zones’ and ‘restricted use zones’. “The PCSD decision overstepped the bounds of the law that it is mandated to uphold, and ultimately placed Palawan’s natural and cultural heritages at great risk” said ELAC Attorney Gerthie Mayo Anda.

However, time to save Brookes’ Point Municipality from open pith mining is running out. Towards the end of this month, Baham Mitra, Governor of Palawan and chairman of the PCSD will express his own decision on whether to endorse a SEP clearance to MacroAsia, Ipilan Nickel Corporation and LEBACH.
In spite of any future political decision, the ongoing grass-root struggle to resist mining operations on indigenous ancestral land will continue.

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