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80,000 signatures, and counting, in support of South Cotabato’s open-pit mining ban

Supporters of the open-pit mining ban in South Cotabato hold a solidarity walk before submitting the initial signatures calling on the Sangguniang Panlalawigan to uphold the controversial prohibition on Monday, 4 October 2021, in Koronadal City. Photo courtesy of the Diocese of Marbel

KORONADAL CITY (MindaNews)— Amid the filing of certificates of candidacy for the 2022 local and national elections, the Diocese of Marbel submitted Monday morning nearly 80,000 signatures to the Sangguniang Panlalawigan of South Cotabato in support of of the province’s controversial open-pit mining ban.

Marbel Bishop Cerilo Casicas celebrated a Holy Mass before the group held a short solidarity walk towards the provincial capitol for the submission of the initial signatures gathered not just in South Cotabato province but also from other parts of the country.

The SP has been conducting consultations following petitions to lift the prohibition on open-pit mining, the method being eyed in the Tampakan project.

Sagittarius Mines, Inc. (SMI) has acquired the rights to develop the US$5.9 billion Tampakan project, the largest untapped copper and gold minefield in Southeast Asia.

“They have been quite strong in arguing that it (Tampakan project) would bring economic development but they say a little about the ecological impact of the big mining project,” Casicas said in his homily.

“If the project is big, the ecological cost is also big,” he added.

Casicas stressed the diocese is strongly advocating for the protection of the environment, citing, among others, the conduct of the signature campaign as their way of taking care of the ecology and of showing compassion to Mother Earth.

The diocese launched the signature campaign last August 16 that so far gathered 78,229 supporters, 32,801 of whom are from South Cotabato and the rest from other parts of the nation.

“We hope that these signatures shall be included as an important factor in the decision-making  of our legislators (as it) involves the quality of life of the present and future South Cotabateños,” Casicas said in a statement entitled “Protect Nature, Protect Our Future; Uphold the Ban on Open-Pit Mining in South Cotabato.”

Saying the diocese will continue to gather signatures to support the open-pit mining ban, Casicas told reporters the church has the moral obligation to guide voters on vital issues, including the environment.

The open-pit mining ban must be upheld, he said, stressing that “this is the right thing to do to ensure that future generations inherit a better society enjoying the fruits of a sound environment.”

Casicas said the diocese renounces the Tampakan project because “the project fails to convince us that it will bring genuine, sustainable and equitable development.”

The Tampakan project threatens our food supply and the watershed and increases the risk of disasters due to climate change, the prelate noted.

The Tampakan project has the potential of yielding per annum an average of 375,000 tons of copper and 360,000 ounces of gold in concentrate within the 17-year-life of the mine.

If developed, the Tampakan project “has the potential to make a significant contribution to the economic prosperity of the Philippines and enable a better future for the people of southern Mindanao,” SMI said on its website.

Saying it will employ “responsible mining,” SMI asserted that the open-pit mining method does not contravene Republic Act 7942 or the Philippine Mining Act of 1995. (Bong S. Sarmiento / MindaNews)

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