- Published on Tuesday, 22 June 2010 20:33
Huge Crowd Rally Behind Environmental Code That Will Ban Open Pit Mining On Indigenous Lands In South Cotabato
More than 12,000 parishioners and various groups including students, irrigation and farmers associations, indigenous peoples, and civil society organizations gathered here to rally behind the passage of an environment code that would finally ban open pit mining method elsewhere in the province of South Cotabato.
Rally organizers, lead by the Catholic Bishop Dinualdo D. Gutierrez, DD also call on South Cotabato governor Daisy Avance Fuentes to finally seal the code passed by the Sangguniang Panlalawigan on June 9, 2010. Fuentes deferred the signing after SMI-Xstrata mobilized some indigenous communities to stage a picket at the governor’s house against the code.
“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 in his welcome speech at a rally held in front of the provincial capitol.
Beyond any legal infirmity
An alternative law group expressed full support to the passage of an Environment Code that would ban open pit mining and said that the power of Governor Daisy Avance Fuentes and the Sangguniang Panlalawigan of South Cotabato to pass the code is beyond any legal infirmity.
“The Environment Code is within the ambit of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan and the Governor’s legal mandate” said 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).
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”.
“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” Pasimio concluded.
Indigenous groups upbeat
B’laan leader and rally speaker Daguil Capion said “gapasalamat gid kami sa Sangguniang Panlalawigan kay ginpasa nila ang Environment Code” (we are very thankful to the Sangguniang Panlalawigan for passing the Environment Code).
Capion leads his fellow B’laans in opposing SMI-XsTRATA’s Tampakan Copper Gold Project in the tri-boundary of South Cotabato, Davao Del Sur and Sultan Kudarat provinces.
“Kung bungkagon nila ang bukid, asa na namo kuhaon ang amon pangabuhian nga libre, ang among kahoy nga libre, ang tubig nga limpyo kag libre” Capion added. (If they will destroy the mountains, where will we get our free livelihood, free firewooda and free and clean water)
Abelardo Wali, a T’boli from Barangay Ned, Lake Sebu who also attended the rally said “masalbar and amon ancestral domain kung mapirmahan na ni gobernor ang environment code ilabina kay ang amon claim plano nga minahon sa mga kompanya sang karbon”. (our ancestral domain will be saved if the governor signs the environment code especially that our claim will be mined by coal mining companies).
Wali is a member of T’boli-Manobo S’daf Claimants Organization (TAMASCO) whose 2,200 hectares ancestral claim will be impacted by coal mining projects of giant conglomerate San Miguel Corporation and DMC Construction Equipment Resources Incorporated owned by yet another powerful clan belonging to the Consunjis . Coal mining will use open pit method to extract coal that will feed coal fired power plants.
San Miguel Corporation hit
Diversifying conglomerate San Miguel Corporation (SMC) was also hit after acquiring some 17,000 hectares of agricultural and ancestral land to mine coal in Brgy. Ned, Lake Sebu, South Cotabato.
“Bisan hindi magsugot ang mga tao sang mina, ang kompanya nagapilit gid nga mag drilling sa mga pribado nga mga yuta kag ginhadlok pa nila ang mga tag-iya” said rally speaker Yellen Zata, Chairperson of Hublag Kontra Mina (HUKOM) based in the area. (Even if the people oppose mining, companies force their way in to drill in the private lands and even threaten land owners).
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.
Zata calls on the governor to finally ink the code and lauds the Sanggunian Panlalawigan as well for the legacy. She calls on SMC and other mining companies to abandon coal mining projects.
Youth Speaks against SMI-Xstrata
“Isa sa mga pang-akit ng SMI-Xstrata ay ang pagbibigay ng scholarship sa mga kabataan. Nais ko pong linawin na ang pagpapaaral sa atin, maging ang mga serbisyong panlipunan ay tungkulin ng pamahalaan at hindi ng kompanya ng mina” said rally speaker and Tri-People Youth chair Olive Tuyao based in Columbio, Sultan Kudarat.
(Among SMI-Xstrata’s way of persuasion is providing scholarships to our youth. I would likee to make it clear that sending us to school, even social services is a government responsibility and not of the mining company).
Tuyao’s group has been actively campaigning against SMI-Xstrata and wholly-owned subsidiary Hillcrest Inc. which mine tenement has a combined area of 50,624.24 hectares in the quadri boundary of Sultan Kudarat, South Cotabato, Sarangani and Davao Del Sur provinces.
Tuyao hopes that the newly-elected provincial officials in Sultan Kudarat will also pass the same measure to protect their environment.
Source:Erwin B. Quinones
Campaigns Paralegal Legal Rights and Natural Resources Center
Kasama sa Kalikasan
Friends of the Earth Philippines