THE MINING CONTROVERSY AND DYNAMICS OF CONFLICT IN BROOKE’S POINT, PALAWAN
by the Environmental Legal Assistance Center, Inc.
Datu Abdelwin Sangkula & Marlon Tamsi
Edited by: Atty. Grizelda Mayo-Anda & Dante Dalabajan
With the Support of:
United States Agency for International Development
The Asia Foundation
United Nations Development Programme
This case study was conducted by the Environmental Legal Assistance Center (ELAC) as part of the research component of the program on “Reforming Environment and Natural Resources (ENR) and Mining Governance: Managing Conflicts in Mining Areas” of the Ateneo School of Government, with the support of the U.S. Agency for International Development, The Asia Foundation, and the United Nations Development Programme. It is one of five case studies conducted in various mining sites around the country to determine the types and sources of mining-related conflicts and assess the needs in relation to conflict management.
This study seeks to look into the conflict that arose as a result of the decision of the local government unit of the Municipality of Brooke’s Point, Province of Palawan to endorse the exploration projects of MacroAsia Corporation and Celestial Nickel Mining Exploration Corporation/Ipilan Nickel Corporation. It examines the varying positions and interests of key stakeholders with regard to the mining issue, the existing conflict-resolution mechanisms, if any, and the effectiveness of such mechanisms. It also seeks to determine the conflict resolution needs to guide stakeholders and other players in their future endeavors with regards to conflict management.
The study makes a review of the mandated responsibilities of several concerned agencies to determine whether or not the performance of public officials are in accord with their duties and responsibilities. Since mining is all about resource and land use, in which several environmental laws serve as the overarching legal framework, a brief discussion of the applicable laws is made to clarify some legal ambiguities in relation to exploration activities of the two large-scale mining companies.
To achieve the objectives of this study, the ELAC research team primarily utilized key informant interviews and focus group discussions in the data gathering process. The team also reviewed existing literature and secondary information, both published and unpublished.
The study shows that the haste with which the local authorities endorsed the conduct of mining exploration activities in Brooke’s Point has sparked divisions and conflict among local stakeholders. The conflict emerged from what seemed to be a deliberate effort on the part of the mining companies and the local government officials to circumvent legal requisites concerning social acceptability and accountability. Other issues such as the potential socio-cultural and ecological impacts of mining activities in the watershed and ancestral domain areas, the legal/policy issues spawned by the conflicting resource/land uses in the proposed mining sites, and the disregard of the Environmentally Critical Areas Network (ECAN) zonation as prescribed by law exacerbated the emerging conflict.
The study recommends the following:
• To effectively address the latent and emerging conflicts between local stakeholders, both parties should agree to a mutually acceptable and transparent system of dealing with the mining issue. Genuine consultative processes with the concerned stakeholders, directly or indirectly affected by mining activities, should be undertaken.
• Government regulators should strictly implement and monitor the compliance of mining companies to environmental laws and policies, and undertake decisive administrative and/or judicial actions against the offenders and consistently uphold the welfare and interest of the general public.
• On the part of the concerned mining companies, the study argues that sincere compliance with all the legal requirements and processes is necessary to avoid the escalation of conflict. In the interest of the general public, the engagements of mining companies with public officials and other interested parties should always be above-board and ensure that the voices of affected communities either opposing or supportive to the mining industry are fairly and objectively heard.
• On the part of the affected communities and concerned stakeholders, active involvement in the entire decision-making process should be enhanced by improving their capacity to engage in dialogues, negotiations and conflict resolution. The participation of the local communities is, therefore, critical in any development undertaking to avoid and manage the further escalation of the conflict.