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South Cotabato government bans open-pit mining

23 June 2010 No Comment

MANILA — The local government unit of South Cotabato recently passed its Environment Code banning open pit mining in the province.

Today, more than 12,000 students, farmers, indigenous peoples, environmentalists and members of civil society organizations gathered in Koronadal City to rally behind the passage of the environment code.

Catholic Bishop Dinualdo D. Gutierrez, DD called on South Cotabato Governor Daisy Avance Fuentes to finally seal the code passed by the Sangguniang Panlalawigan on June 9. Fuentes reportedly deferred the signing after mining company SMI-Xstrata mobilized some indigenous communities to stage a picket at the governor’s house against the code. The SMI-XsTRATA is implementing its Tampakan copper gold project in the tri-boundary of South Cotabato, Davao Del Sur and Sultan Kudarat provinces.

Sagittarius Mines,Inc. (SMI), is also operating in parts of South Cotabato, in what is reportedly one of the largest nickel deposits in Asia.

“The Sanggunian has left not only a momentous legacy for its people but also obtained a place in the annals of good governance in making a stand against open pit mining,” Judy Pamela A. Pasimio, executive director of an alternative law group Legal Rights and Natural Resources Center-Kasama sa Kalikasan/Friends of the Earth Philippines (LRC-KsK/FoE Phils), said.

“This gathering is not just for the environment, for the environment code and for us who are here but for our children and our children’s children who shall benefit from the ordinance that will protect their future” said Fr. Romeo Catedral, Social Action director at a rally held in front of the provincial capitol.

Pasimio also said that “local governments are empowered to manage and administer the natural resources within their territorial jurisdiction and therefore, it is the power of the local legislative and local executive to determine whether or not open pit mining is detrimental to the environment and ecological balance of the province.”

B’laan leader Daguil Capion thanked the Sangguniang Panlalawigan for passing the Environment Code. Capion leads his fellow B’laans in opposing SMI-XsTRATA’s copper gold project.

“If they will destroy the mountains, where will we get our free livelihood, free firewood and free and clean water?” he said in local dialect.

“Our ancestral domain will be saved if the governor signs the environment code especially that our claim will be mined by coal mining companies,” Abelardo Wali, a T’boli from Barangay Ned, Lake Sebu, said.

Wali is a member of T’boli-Manobo S’daf Claimants Organization (TAMASCO) whose 2,200 hectares ancestral claim will be affected by coal mining projects of giant conglomerate San Miguel Corporation and DMC Construction Equipment Resources Incorporated. Coal mining will use open pit method to extract coal that will feed coal fired power plants.

San Miguel Corporation (SMC) also acquired some 17,000 hectares of agricultural and ancestral land to mine coal in Brgy. Ned, Lake Sebu. SMC acquired Daguma Agro Minerals Inc (DAMI) and sister company Bonanza Energy Resources Inc (BERI) as well as Sultan Mining and Energy Development Corp. (SMEDC) that hold coal operating contracts for production and development in the coal rich community.

“Even if the people oppose mining, companies force their way in to drill in the private lands and even threaten land owners,” Yellen Zata, chairperson of Hublag Kontra Mina (Hukom) said.

A youth leader also opposed the scholarships provided by the SMI-Xtrata. “I would like to make it clear that sending us to school and providing social services is a government responsibility and not of the mining company,” Olive Tuyao, chair of Tri-People Youth, said. (PinoyPress)

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