South Cotabato tribal leaders laud CA pro-mining ruling
A leader of the Blaan tribe in South Cotabato on Thursday lauded a judicial ruling setting aside a provincial anti-mining ordinance that prohibits open-pit mining in Tampakan, South Cotabato.
“We are happy with this stand of the Court of Appeals on the issue,” Indigenous People’s mandatory representative to the Tampakan Municipal Council Domingo Collado said.
The CA ruling recognized the validity of the provincial ordinance that bans open-pit mining in any town in the province, but emphasized that it cannot be applied on large-scale mining operations allowed by Malacañang, Collado added.
The ruling will pave the way for the operation of Sagittarius Mines Inc. (SMI), whose copper and gold mining project in South Cotabato has been previously delayed by the open-pit mining ban method enacted by the Province of South Cotabato.
The ban, which has been in effect since 2010, was eventually lifted in May last year.
A resolution from the CA dated August 22, 2022, stating that the South Cotabato Provincial Environmental Code that bans mining in the province cannot be applied to firms permitted by Malacañang, particularly SMI, has further paved the road for the reopening of the mining operation.
“It is clarified that the ban on open-pit mining does not apply to large-scale mining operations of the said province, particularly the Tampakan project,” the CA said in its ruling.
Pro-mining tribal leaders and members released copies of the CA ruling to the media last Tuesday.
Dalena Samling, a popular tribal leader, was also quoted in the same statement as saying that they “have long wished for the exploration of the copper deposits in Tampakan.”
“It can improve the municipality via revenues and the costly corporate social responsibility [CSR] projects of the SMI that Malacañang had contracted to mine for copper in our homeland,” Samling said.
It was the Blaan tribal councils in South Cotabato and prominent members of local business communities that sought the position of the CA about the extent of the applicability of the provincial ordinance prohibiting open-pit mining in the province.
Mining experts believe copper deposits in the Blaan’s ancestral lands could reached by as much as $200 billion in the mineral-rich mountain municipality of Tampakan.
‘No action from LGU’
The provincial government has decided not to appeal the case, citing that the decision did not invalidate the ordinance banning open-pit mining, it was learned. The provincial government, apparently, will adjust the ordinance to reflect the CA’s decision that the ban on open-pit mining is only applicable to small-scale mining.
The anti-mining group Alyansa Tigil Mina (ATM) has expressed dismay over the inaction of the Provincial Government of South Cotabato over the CA ruling exempting large-scale mining from the ban.
“We are extremely disappointed at the Court’s decision, which virtually curtails local autonomy by modifying the applicability of the ban on open-pit mining. Yet, we are also deeply frustrated at the local government for keeping mum about the CA decision, which was issued last August 22, 2022. It’s seven months since the Court handed down its ruling but it is only now that we’ve heard of it,” said Jaybee Garganera, ATM National Coordinator.
“Being party to the case, the local government must have certainly known about the decision. But why did they choose to be quiet? Why did they not inform the public about this, especially the advocates against mining in Tampakan? We feel deceived and betrayed,” Rene Pamplona, ATM Chairperson and one of the local leaders opposing large-scale mining in Tampakan said for his part.
There are eleven (11) Mineral Production Sharing Agreements (MPSAs) and one (1) Financial or Technical Assistance Agreement (FTAA) in South Cotabato.
By Jonathan Mayuga
March 23, 2023