Ipilan Nickel Corp. asked to explain tree cutting spree

MANILA — The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has given Ipilan Nickel Corp. (INC) until Wednesday to explain why no criminal charges should be filed against the mining company over its massive indiscriminate tree cutting in the town of Brooke’s Point in Palawan province.

DENR-Mimaropa Regional Director Natividad Bernardino issued the show cause order based on a directive by Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu, who had ordered a full investigation into INC’s violations for cutting down thousands of trees within its mining area even after the DENR had stopped its operations.

Cimatu himself saw the extent of the destruction caused by INC’s tree cutting activity during an aerial inspection and a dialogue with the officials of the company and the local government over the weekend.

The massive tree-cutting drew indignation from residents, led by Mayor Mary Jean Feliciano.

Disgusted by what he saw during the inspection, Cimatu issued a general warning to irresponsible mining companies about “going around the law.”

“You should be man enough to face the consequences if you make a mistake,” said the former Armed Forces chief.

Initial reports showed that the INC felled around 7,000 trees in 30 hectares of the 353 hectares of land covered by its mineral production sharing agreement or MPSA with the DENR.

Although the INC has an existing one-year tree cutting permit expiring on May 26 this year, the same was deemed no longer effective since Dec. 14, 2016 when the DENR, under then Secretary Gina Lopez, cancelled the firm’s environmental compliance certificate (ECC).

In the show cause order signed by Bernardino, the INC was given three working days from receipt to submit its reply. After which, the DENR will issue a resolution.

Based on record, the INC, through its resident manager Ferdinand Libatique, received the order on May 19.

Bernardino said that unless properly explained, what the INC did was “contrary to law and sufficient ground to file criminal complaint in a court of law.”

According to the regional director, the president of INC “could be charged with qualified theft” for violation of Section 77 of Presidential Decree No. 705 or the Revised Forestry Code.

“We wish to state that with the cancellation of the ECC, all related mining activities including tree cutting permit are likewise deemed cancelled,” Bernardino pointed out in the order. DENR-northboundasia.com