“We support the local government’s pronouncement that it will dig in and persist with its opposition to the Tampakan open-pit mine.”
by DEE AYROSO
MANILA — The Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment (Kalikasan PNE) lashed out at President Aquino’s reported order to process the approval of the Tampakan gold-copper mining project, in effect, nullifying the environmental code of South Cotabato province, which bans open-pit mines.
The Tampakan project is run by Sagittarius Mines Inc. and now the Alcantara and Sons (Alsons), after Anglo-Swiss giant Glencore pulled out its investments in June.
The project, which is at the exploration stage, has met fierce resistance from the indigenous people, and has sparked a pangayaw (tribal war) against the company, amid the worsening military attacks on the communities.
The ban declared by the South Cotabato government is another obstacle for the project, which straddles the mountains of Tampakan, South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat and Davao del Sur.
The reported Malacañang push for the open-pit mining project came at the heels of a statement by Dr. Chaloka Beyani, United Nations Special Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons, who visited Tampakan and talked to indigenous peoples who expressed fear that the project would proceed.
“I urge the government, in consultation with indigenous peoples themselves, to give greater attention to addressing the causes of displacement, whether it be due to the militarization of their areas, or due to development projects,” Beyani said.
Beyani visited the Philippines from July 21 to 31 and was able to talk Lumad bakwets (evacuees) in Mindanao, including those staying at the UCCP Haran house in Davao City, to escape military operations and encampment in their communities.
“This is a gross disrespect not only to the UN rapporteur, but most especially to the communities, institutions and people’s movements who continue to suffer from and resist militarization and displacement that the Tampakan mine has been inflicting for more than two decades in Mindanao,” said Clemente Bautista, national coordinator of the Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment.
In July, the South Cotabato provincial government reaffirmed its 2010 environmental code, prohibiting open-pit mining in the province.
Under Aquino’s Executive Order 79, the Mining Industry Coordinating Council, composed of Cabinet members from the climate change adaptation and mitigation and the economic development clusters, serves as an oversight committee and may overturn decisions by local government mining regulatory boards.
“This further exposes Aquino as a haciendero bureaucrat who criminally neglected our people and environment,” said Bautista.
Bautista said both Glencore and the Aquino government are accountable for the social costs and persisting environmental threats of the Tampakan mine, which was highlighted in the recently held International People’s Conference on Mining.
“We support the local government’s pronouncement that it will dig in and persist with its opposition to the Tampakan open-pit mine. We have proven our people power when we kicked out Glencore from Mindanao, and we must strengthen the people’s resistance further to ensure the defense our communities, ecosystems, and natural resources,” said Bautista.