DENR gives Palawan miner until May 24 to explain tree cutting spree

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has given Ipilan Nickel Corp. (INC) until May 24 (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.

The show cause order was issued by DENR-Mimaropa Regional Director Natividad Bernardino 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 leads local celebration of Int'l Day for Biological Diversity

The unveiling of the highly anticipated museum dedicated to enhancing the appreciation of the country's rich biological diversity and the holding of the first-ever "biodiversity congress" will mark this year's local celebration of the International Day for Biological Diversity (IDBD) on May 22.

The twin events are hosted and organized by the Biodiversity Management Bureau (BMB) of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), in partnership with the University of the Philippines, Office of Senator Loren Legarda and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

An attached agency of the DENR, BMB is responsible for the protection and conservation of wildlife species and their habitats.

BMB Director Theresa Mundita Lim expressed hopes the Museum of Philippine Biodiversity located inside the Ninoy Aquino Parks and Wildlife Center (NAPWC) in Quezon City would help awaken the interest of the public on the importance of conserving biodiversity.

The museum, which will have a press launch on May 22, will feature six protected areas representing the different and unique terrestrial and marine ecosystems in the country.

The artworks to be displayed in the museum are interactive and experimental, showcasing the effects of current environmental issues.

"It is with utmost hope that this museum will encourage people to do something for our precious biodiversity," Lim said.

"A museum of hope and pride, the Museum of Philippine Biodiversity aims to touch people's senses to widen their perspectives and deepen their understanding in appreciating the biodiversity's sublime beauty, as well as ignite their will to participate in conserving it," she added.

A permanent installation art created by Luis "Junyee" Yee Jr. will also be unveiled during the event. Titled "Ugnayan," the artwork represents the 21 countries comprising the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation or APEC, and their unity and cooperation in pursuit for common goals in various fields.

Also on May 22, the three-day National Biodiversity Congress will open at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Ortigas Center. The event, which will run from May 22-24, carries the theme, "Upwelling of Lessons, Sustaining Community Benefits in the Conservation of Landscapes and Seascapes."

Lim will be one of the presenters on Day 1 of the biodiversity congress, while DENR Undersecretary Annaliza Rebuelta Teh will deliver the welcome remarks.

Day 1 will also feature the launch of three major BMB programs namely: the Philippine Biodiversity Action Plan 2015-2028; the Philippines’ Voluntary Commitments on SGD Goal #14, Ocean Conference; and the Coastal and Marine Ecosystems Management Program (CMEMP) 2017-2018.

On Day 2, Senator Legarda and Secretary Veronica Victorio of the Climate Change Commission will make presentations on the policy agenda for building community resiliency.

Day 3 will feature discussions about climate justice and biodiversity as a human right with Archbishop Antonio Ledesma of the Climate Change Congress of the Philippines and Dean Tony Laviña of the Ateneo School of Government.

IDBD is celebrated every 22nd of May to promote awareness on the importance of biodiversity to the public. Being a signatory to the Convention on Biological Diversity, the Philippines is one of the 196 nations that observe IDBD annually. ### 

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