Day 21
3 minutes legal support in the fight against environmental destruction in Sumbiling

Indigenous resistance against an open-cast mining company Indigenous resistance against an open-cast mining company

Only intact mountain rainforest supplies the village population with drinking water

Kennedy Corio lives in the village of Sumbiling, his birth place, at the foot of the Bulanjao Mountains. Around his house he plants ginger, peanuts, aubergines and cassava. He irrigates his fields with water from the Sumbiling River, which comes from the mountainous area. When the river turned red more and more often a few years ago and thin red iron oxide deposits remained on the ground after field irrigation, Kennedy's plants no longer grew so well. He searched the mountains for the cause and found that a mining company had cleared trees there and was in the process of laying new roads. The erosion washed toxic soil into the river. Together with other villagers, Kennedy founded the initiative "Save Bulanjao" and demanded that the environmental authority establish a drinking water protection area. With the support of the organisation ELAC Palawan, they managed to push through their demands. Kennedy felt that he could make a difference and demand his rights.



Preservation of the mountain rainforest in the Bulanjao mountain region of the Philippines as a natural livelihood for the Pala'wan indigenous group



2 women lawyers document legal violations by the mining company, file a lawsuit and conduct the court proceedings for the Pala'wan people

Countable effort


The two lawyers provide 4,032 hours (252 days each) of legal assistance to the Pala'wan indigenous group



Through the work of the women lawyers, the Pala'wan can assert their rights in court and campaign for the protection of nature

Systemic effect


The rights of indigenous minorities are strengthened. Illegal environmental destruction by large corporations comes more into public focus


The Philippines are very rich in natural resources, with deposits of gold, copper, nickel and silver (Mongabay 2017; PowerShift 2017). The Mining Act of 1995 (R.A. No. 7942) allows foreign corporations to mine these mineral resources. In most cases, the ore is being exported and processed in China, Japan or Australia (PowerShift 2017). A lack of safety controls in mining often causes environmental disasters such as landslides or dam bursts at toxic tailings ponds, that flood entire villages. Most of the aforementioned natural resources are found in forested regions, inhabited by indigenous peoples. The destruction of their natural livelihoods often leads to displacement. In Sumbiling, the Rio Tuba Nickel Mining Corporation Inc. has been mining nickel ore since 1975 (Forbes 2014). Nickel is a component of steel, but also of car batteries. The International Energy Agency estimates that the demand for nickel will increase by 60 % in the next twenty years due to electric mobility (Ilagan et al. 2021). The company is keen to expand open-pit mining, but lacks permits to do so. However, local NGOs such as ELAC Palawan report that despite the lack of permits, the company is illegally developing the Bulanjao mountain area; building roads, busting rocks and drilling test holes. This results in river diversions, deforestation, landslides and erosion. The indigenous people of Sumbiling, like Kennedy, are suffering. Out of 850 families in the village, 68% have no access to clean drinking water. They get their domestic and drinking water from the Sumbiling River, which is often polluted. Open-pit mining activities threaten the large local biodiversity and cause significant environmental destruction (Sonter et al. 2018, No to Mining in Palawan 2011, Environmental Legal Assistance Center 2021).

The good deed

The inhabitants of Sumbiling belong to the indigenous Pala'wan people. For several years they have been documenting the illegal destruction of their habitat by the mining company, especially of the mountain rainforest. With an average family income of 30 euros per month, the Pala'wan do not have the financial means to take legal action against the Rio Tuba Nickel Mining Corp. The experienced human rights organisation ELAC Palawan will therefore provide the Pala'wan with legal support. With your good deed, ELAC Palawan will employ two female lawyers to deal exclusively with the mining company's legal violations in Sumbiling. The two lawyers will take witness statements, prepare photographic evidence, document all violations, bring them to court and represent the indigenous people at the trial. The aim is to force the mining company to comply with environmental and mining laws and to preserve the Pala'wan's natural livelihood and protect the rainforest.

Sumbiling (Bataraza)

About the Philippines






Number of inhabitants



Gross domestic product per capita per year



Human Development Index

The Filipino journalist Maria Ressa received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2021. She campaigns for freedom of expression and free reporting.