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‘Listen to the voice of the people,’ bishop appeals on behalf of residents in mining town

“It is only appropriate to respect their rights and listen to their grievances,” said the bishop

A Catholic bishop in the island province of Palawan in the Philippines appealed to authorities “to listen to the voice and respect the concerns” of the people who are protesting against a mining operation in their town.

“We recognize the basis of what they are fighting for. They are the ones who know the most and are directly affected by what is happening to their environment,” said Bishop Socrates Mesiona of Puerto Princesa in a pastoral statement.

“It is only appropriate to respect their rights and listen to their grievances,” he added.

Residents of Brooke’s Point, a town on the southern tip of Palawan province, have been protesting against the continued operation of a mining company in their place.

Bishop Mesiona’s statement opened with a quote from Psalm 34, which reads: “The Lord hears the cry of the poor.”

The bishop said the people’s protests are “just” action to express their principles for what they think is good for their community.

The prelate, meanwhile, appealed for calm and for a “truthful” discussion on the issue for the sake of the common good “and not for the benefits of a few.”

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The head of Caritas Philippines, the social action arm of the Catholic bishops’ conference, “it is important to listen to the voice of the community.”

Bishop Colin Bagaforo of Kidapawan, president of Caritas Philippines, called on the provincial government of Palawan to declare the area as a “no-mining zone” to protect the natural resources.

“This is especially important now that we are facing the climate emergency that is intensifying the calamities in our country,” he said.

Residents and local government officials of Brooke’s Point earlier condemned the continued operations of Ipilan Nickel Corporation (Ipilan Nickel).

They claimed that the company has been operating without a Mayor’s Permit and a Certificate Precondition from the National Commission on Indigenous People’s.

A report on the Manila Times on February 24, however, said the Mines and Geosciences Bureau has confirmed that the Mineral Production Sharing Agreement (MPSA) 017-93-IV between the government and Ipilan Nickel “remains valid until April 10, 2025.”

The report said the MPSA will allow the mining company to “maintain its exclusive right to conduct responsible mining operations in the municipality of Brooke’s Point, Palawan, covering 2,835 hectares, with 260 hectares already partially declared as a mining area.”

The town council earlier questioned the renewal of the MPSA in 2018 reportedly without the endorsement of the municipality and without clearances from the National Commission of Indigenous Peoples and the Protected Area Management Board.

The report quoted MGB regional director Glen Marcelo C. Noble saying that the 1993 MPSA was amended in April 2000 to conform to the Philippine Mining Act of 1995.

He said the NCIP clearance was not needed as this only applied to applications filed after the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act of 1997 was enacted.

Ipilan Nickel was said to have already completed the process of securing NCIP certification in preparation for the renewal of its MPSA in 2025. – with a report from CBCP News

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