Road in Palawan, the Philippines. Photo by Alessio Roversi on Unsplash.

Philippine Supreme Court ruling in favour of nature and Indigenous rights sets a hopeful precedent

The Supreme Court of the Philippines decided in favour of nature and the rights of Indigenous peoples in the province of Palawan[1]Read more about the issues around nickel mining in Palawan: On 15 August, 2023, the Court obliged mining agencies and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to provide evidence dispelling concerns regarding the potential harmful impact of a planned nickel mining project in the Mt. Mantalingahan Protected Landscape. They must also explain their lack of response to the pleas of the Palawan Indigenous Cultural Communities of Brooke’s Point, Palawan[2]Supreme Court of the Philippines. 16 August 2023. Supreme Court Issues Writ of Kalikasan Against DENR and Mining Operators in Mt. Mantalingahan, Palawan. Green Livelihood Alliance (GLA) partners in the Philippines are pleased with the Supreme Court issuance of a Writ of Kalikasan: a remedy under Philippine law protecting an individual’s constitutional right to a healthy environment.

Header photo: Road in Palawan, the Philippines © Alessio Roversi on Unsplash.

Hopeful precedent for the future

‘The Supreme Court’s Writ of Kalikasan regarding the province of Palawan recognises the possibility of serious and irreversible harm on the environment and inhabitants of Brooke’s Point located in the Mt. Mantalingahan Mountain Range, as well as the significance of the forests and biodiversity of Mt.Mantalingahan Protected Landscape, and its value to areas outside of the province which covers five municipalities: Bataraza, Brooke’s Point, Sofronio Espanola, Quezon and Rizal. This is a good precedent for Palawan in future cases involving mining and other extractive projects,’ says Atty. Grizelda Mayo-Anda, of the Environmental Legal Assistance Center, a GLA partner in the Philippines. ‘We hope that similar writs can be initiated to protect Palawan’s forests and biodiversity,’ she adds.

‘This is a good precedent for Palawan in future cases involving mining and other extractive projects.’

Atty. Grizelda Mayo-Anda – Environmental Legal Assistance Center

Destructive mining in ancestral forests

Earlier in August 2023, the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) had issued a cease and desist order against Celestial Nickel Mining Exploration Corporation and its operator Ipilan Nickel Corporation. This followed a resolution of non-consent by multiple Palawano Indigenous Cultural Communities (ICCs). They demanded all mining operations to stop, because of irregularities in the informed consent process (FPIC), and because Ipilan Nickel Corporation continued operation without the legally required certification from the NCIP.

The decision based on the Writ of Kalikasan was a result of a petition by the Palawano ICCs in Brooke’s Point, Palawan against destructive mining in their ancestral forests. The ICCs’ petition, according to the Supreme Court statement, rightfully questioned multiple issues, including the illegally extended Mineral Production Sharing Agreement covering 2,835 hectares of land that is overlapping a protected area not open to mining operations, illegal mining operations and the illegal cutting of trees. The Court found that the continued mining operations and excavation of nickel by INC and Celestial Mining may cause irreparable environmental damage to the Mt. Mantalingahan protected area and the ICCs’ ancestral domain as exhibited by extreme flooding and contamination of fishing areas.

Green Livelihoods Alliance

Through the Forests for a Just Future programme by the Green Livelihoods Alliance, we contribute to more sustainable and inclusive governance of tropical rainforests, in a way that promotes climate mitigation, human rights and preserving the livelihoods of indigenous and local communities.

Bottom Line!

With Bottom Line!, a coalition of Dutch and international civil society organizations is working towards a just energy transition with the least possible impact on people and nature. Both in the Netherlands and in the countries where the raw materials are extracted. 

In April 2023, the Green Livelihoods Alliance and Bottom Line! contributed to a quick response fund to support the legal costs for the indigenous communities that were affected by legal cases filed by the mining company against the peaceful protesters against the mine, and for those communities that filed a case against the nickel company.

More information?

Evelien van den Broek
Senior Expert Environmental Justice