Various groups and individuals came together to oppose what they see as a move by the provincial government to lift the open-pit mining ban in South Cotabato.
Tampakan Forum, a multi-sectoral coalition of individuals and organizations, gathered at least 93,453 signatures in a petition to oppose the amendment of Section 22B of the provincial Environment Code, which specifically bans open-pit mining in South Cotabato.
The opposition came after the provincial board held a public hearing on Friday (Feb 18), to discuss proposed amendments to the code to allow open-pit mining in the province.
“We believe the amendment’s major beneficiary is the Sagittarius Mines, Inc. (SMI) and its long-stalled Tampakan Copper-Gold Project because of this hurdle,” The coalition said.
Marbel Diocese Bishop Cirilo Casicas, one of the proponents of the Tampakan forum, condemned the proposed lifting as harmful to the environment and the people. “Even God will not approve,” Casicas said of the project.
The consultations, which were conducted in Tampakan, host the multibillion-peso gold-copper project of the SMI. The firm seeks to utilize the 10,000 hectares of land, touted as Asia’s largest, for mining use.
Meanwhile, farmers from South Cotabato also opposed the amendment of the South Cotabato Environmental Code, citing its possible destruction of wildlife areas, biodiversity, and watersheds.
In their position paper, farmers belonging to the group Magsasaka at Siyentipiko Para sa Pag-Unlad ng Agrikultura (MASIPAG) argued that “open-pit mining operations falsely promise economic development but actually pose a great threat, especially to farmers and Lumads who produce food.”
— MASIPAG (@MASIPAGFarmers) February 24, 2022
“This ordinance is “sacred” protection of the people from ecological destruction and preserves the placid way of life of the people of South Cotabato,” the farmers stated in a position paper that they distributed after the last public hearing at South Cotabato Gymnasium and Cultural Center on the proposed lifting of the open-pit mining ban. “Large-scale mining and agriculture can never coexist harmoniously,” the group added.
Open-pit method of mining for copper, gold, silver, and complex ores in the country was allowed after former Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Roy Cimatu signed Department Administrative Order No. 2021-40 on Dec. 23, lifting the ban.
Basti Evangelista is a news and opinion writer who focuses on Philippine national politics and sectoral issues. His personal advocacy includes press freedom and social justice. He regularly plays online games with his friends during his free time. The views expressed are his own.
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