DENR sues nickel firm for illegal tree cutting

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The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) on Friday filed before the Office of the Provincial Prosecutor of Palawan a criminal complaint against Ipilan Nickel Corp. (INC) over the massive indiscriminate cutting of trees in Brooke’s Point town.

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In its complaint filed through Brooke’s Point Community Environment and Natural Resources Officer Conrado Corpuz, the DENR accused INC of felling 677 trees, most of which are hardwood species, in an area not covered by the tree cutting permit the company secured last year.

This is a clear violation of Section 77 of Presidential Decree 705, or the Forestry Code of the Philippines, according to the DENR.

The case for violation of the Forestry Code of the Philippines involves a 1.7-hectare area out of the 24-hectare forest cleared by INC in Barangay Maasin.

In May 2016, the DENR issued a one-year special tree cutting permit to INC as part of its mineral production sharing agreement (MPSA) with the agency.

Last December, then DENR Secretary Regina Lopez cancelled the company’s environmental compliance certificate (ECC), rendering its tree-cutting permit invalid.

But the INC insisted that the tree cutting permit remains valid since it had filed a motion for reconsideration on the cancellation of its ECC.

Corpuz said the case is “just the first in a series of cases against the INC,” adding they might file other charges against the mining company once the inventory of the trees cut in the remaining 22.3 hectares is completed.

Meanwhile, a team led by DENR-Mimaropa Assistant Regional Director for Technical Services Vicente Tuddao Jr. last Wednesday went to the mine site to verify reports on the illegal road construction and assess the extent of soil erosion and siltation resulting from forest denudation caused by INC’s massive illegal cutting activities.

Earlier in May, DENR Secretary Roy Cimatu served a show-cause order to INC over the massive indiscriminate tree cutting within its MPSA area.

Based on initial reports, the INC cut down some 7,000 trees, majority of them premium native species—malabayabas, apitong-baboy, nato and agoho.

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