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Thousands of trees cut in Palawan

A mining company has started cutting century-old trees in Brooke’s Point, Palawan, drawing the condemnation of former Environment Secretary Gina Lopez who took to Facebook to expose what she termed as a “massacre”.

“Two days after my rejection, Ipilan Nickel Corp. in Brooke’s Point – WITHOUT A PERMIT, WITHOUT PROTECTED AREA CLEARANCE – went on a massacre, cutting down THOUSANDS of century old trees,” Lopez said.

The combative former Cabinet official said the cutting of trees will affect 3,000 hectares of agriculture land, 30 thousand people and five barangays.

Lopez’s expose was confirmed yesterday by Conrado Corpuz of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR)-Community and Environment and Natural Resources Office.

Corpuz said it is true that they, along with municipal mayor Mary Jane Feliciano, were barred from entering the area where the alleged cutting of trees was held.

“We had to go through the backdoor to confirm the report,” he said.

As a result, Corpuz said DENR regional director Natividad Feliciano issued an order suspending further cutting of trees and requiring the mining firm to explain its action.

Today, Corpuz said they will inspect the area after getting assurance that they would be allowed to enter.

Reached for comment, Global Ferronickel Holdings Inc., parent company of Ipilan Nickel Corp., maintained that it has the necessary special tree cutting and earth-balling permit issued by the DENR on May 26, 2016.

Although the Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC) given to the firm was cancelled by Lopez, GFHI president Dante Bravo said the cancellation is a subject of a pending motion for reconsideration.

“Under the Revised Administrative Code, the pendency of a motion for reconsideration stops the effectivity of an order of a department,” Bravo said.

Bravo said that apart from the permit, the firm has an “outstanding SEP clearance issued by the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development and a Mineral Production Sharing Agreement with the government.”

Lopez’s hardline stance against mining has put the former secretary at odds with the country’s economic managers headed by Finance Secretary Sonny Dominguez.

“Brooke’s Point has 11% growth – and no mining. Bataraza has two mining companies and below 0% growth. El Nido has 49% growth. So when Dominguez says mining is good for the economy, THE NUMBERS DONT SHOW IT!” Lopez said in her post.

Palawan, often labeled as “The Last Frontier” because of its rich, untouched natural resources, draws a number of local and foreign lured by its pristine beaches.

It has been voted as one of the world’s most beautiful islands by Conde Nast Traveler.