MAC: Mines and Communities

Opposition to mining still strong in Tampakan

Published by MAC on 2004-10-08

Social Action-Justice and Peace Desk Diocese of Marbel Stands Firm in Opposing Mining Activities in Tamapkan

Press Release for Press conference

October 8, 2004, Greenwoods, Koronadal City

Protests Tampakan atThe diocese of Marbel is saddened by the change of heart of the B’laan communities by allowing Tampakan Mining Resources Corp. (TMRC) to conduct mineral exploratory activities in the area, but the diocese remains steadfast in its advocacy and education in opposing the ill-effects of mining to the environment and the community.

The diocese understands and respects the decision of the different Tribal Councils especially in Salnaong. The Salnaong Tribal Council was once a staunch ally of the diocese in opposing the mining exploration of the previous holder of mining rights, the Western Mining Corporation (WMC) which later became the Tampakan Mineral Resources Corp and is now called Sagittarius Mines Inc. (SMI). The diocese understands that the IP’s in the area have already suffered a great deal from successive harassment because of their previous anti-mining stand.

Be that as it may, the diocese of Marbel holds:

Protesters to SMI: "go away;" Supporters say "thanks"

Allen V. Estabillo, Mindanews

18 October 2004

Tampakan, South Cotabato -- Chanting "layas, layas! (go away, go away)," some 800 protesters from South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Sarangani and General Santos City (Socksargen) staged a rally today, demanding the immediate pull-out of an Australian-backed firm eyeing large-scale gold and copper mining operations here.

The anti-mining protest, held in front of the Catholic church here, came as about 200 supporters of the operations of Sagittarius Mines Inc.(SMI) gathered beside the company's main office a block away, for a "thanksgiving" program in connection with the ongoing indigenous people's month.

Carrying placards and streamers, the protesters urged the government to immediately stop the ongoing exploration activities being conducted by SMI.

"No to mining in Tampakan!" "Stop the destruction of our mountains!" read some of the streamers carried by the protesters who also staged a protest caravan in nearby Koronadal City and this town aboard least 40 trucks, cars and motorcycles.

The protesters included parishioners from at least 24 parishes under the Diocese of Marbel, farmers from Sultan Kudarat province and members of various groups allied with the militant Bagong Alyansang Makabayan.

Fr. Romeo Catedral, Social Action Center coordinator of the Diocese of Marbel, said they are protesting any mining activity here due to its possible environmental hazards.

He cited the experiences of mining communities in Davao, Cebu and Marindugue where mine tailings and wastes from large-scale mining operations eventually destroyed several waterways, particularly rivers and creeks.

"We are opposed to any mining activity here because there is no such thing as responsible mining. We have witnessed how large-scale mining activities destroyed several mining areas in the country. Their consequences are very tremendous and we will not allow them to happen here," Catedral said.

Aside from the environmental risks, Catedral said the mining operations also "disturb" the ancestral domain as well as the culture of the B'laan residents in the area.

He said the proposed mining activity will eventually dislocate the B'laan residents, particularly those currently staying within the proposed mining area.

Eliezer Billanes, chair of the Socsksargen Coalition of Anti-Mining Movements, questioned the legality of SMI's operations, stressing a Supreme Court (SC) ruling issued early this year that nullified the issuance of the Financial and Technical Assistance Agreement by the national government to SMI's predecessor the Australian Western Mining Corp. (WMC).

"The Supreme Court has already made its ruling and they must abide by it," Billanes said.

In a 95-page ruling, the high court early this year nullified several provisions of the 1995 Philippine Mining Act, including that which allows foreign companies to own and manage mining claims in the country.

The court ruled that the FTAA the government entered into with WMC in 1995 be canceled as it violated the Constitution. The government, through the Department of Environment and Natural Resources' Mines and Geosciences Bureau, appealed the SC ruling.

As the anti-mining protest was ongoing, local officials and residents of at least five barangays covered by the proposed mining area gathered beside SMI's office to reaffirm their support to the company's operations.

Tampakan mayor Claudius Barroso reiterated that the town, which receives a P2 million development assistance yearly from SMI, has greatly improved since the company came in last year.

"Because of SMI, we now have new roads, schools and health centers and more of these are still coming," the mayor said during the "thanksgiving program."

The program was also graced by officials of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources in Central Mindanao led by Environmental Management Bureau regional director Datu Tungko Saikol.

Faith drives me to oppose mining: bishop

By Aquiles Zonio, Mindanews

October 20, 2004

Tampakan, South Cotabato -- Bishop Dinualdo Gutierrez of the Diocese of Marbel claimed faith is the reason why the Church is taking a critical stance against large-scale mining.

The bishop made the statement after a caravan rally was held to dramatize their opposition to the mining exploration of Sagittarius Mines Inc. (SMI).

SMI is now conducting drilling operations in the tri-boundary of the provinces of Sultan Kudarat, South Cotabato and Davao Del Sur.

Mining, the bishop claimed, is destructive and would subvert truth, justice, love and peace, which are the very foundation of Christian faith.

He said the stand of the church is "absolutely no to mining."

When asked why there are priests who are supportive of mining, the bishop said, "It's their personal stand, not the official stand of the Church."

Gutierrez further said that the B'laans from five tribal communities in the mining site supported the Tampakan Copper-Gold project of SMI primarily because of material consideration.

"You know the general behavior of the natives. They give their consent in exchange for material things. I doubt whether they really made an independent decision or they were simply duped," the bishop lamented.

He said that last Monday's protest rally was just one of a series of Church-led protest actions against mining.

"We will continue the fight without let up," he added.

Close to 1,000 placard-bearing participants from various parishes of the diocese joined in the protest action against mining held Monday in front of the Roman Catholic Church in this town.

Other participants came from as far as Columbio town in Sultan Kudarat.

They were demanding that SMI stopped its mining exploration and immediately leave the area.

Just a stone's throw away from where the anti-mining groups was holding a protest rally was a large throng of B'laans holding a thanksgiving and celebration of the indigenous people's (IP) month.

All the five tribal chieftains of the host communities in the mining area were present during the affair.

The celebration was highlighted by the launching of "La Maska," a B'laan term which means a covenant of solidarity.

The tribal leaders present agreed to remain steadfast in their decision to support mining despite pressures from outside forces.

The B'laans asked the Church to respect their right to decide for themselves.

Koronadal church firm versus Tampakan mining

By Jeffery M. Tupas, Mindanews

Sunday, October 10, 2004

KORONADAL CITY -- The Catholic Church here is not about to pull their flag down over their opposition to the mining operation in the town of Tampakan, South Cotabato citing the adverse effects the operations could leave the environment and the communities in the area.

This despite the approval given by the B'laans, a group of Lumad (Indigenous Peoples), living near the mining site to the Sagittarius Mining Incorporated (SMI) to conduct mineral exploratory activities.

Earlier, the B'laans opposed the entry of the company.

The Salnaong Tribal Council was a staunch ally of the church in opposing the mining operations of the Western Mining Corporation (WMC), which previously owned the mining rights in Tampakan.

The WMC was later called the Tampakan Mineral Resources Corporation. Reports said people behind WMC are still the same people now running the SMI.

Father Romeo Catedral, director of the Social Action Center of the Diocese, admitted that while they were saddened by the natives' "change of heart" on mining issue, the Church will remain steadfast in its advocacy just to expose the "dark smoke" behind the mining explorations which started last year.

In a press conference, Catedral said the B'laans agreed to sign in favor of the mining activities after monetary rewards and other material lured them things including vehicles, school buildings, scholarships, and water system that the company gave them.

"We don't call it bribery, but deception. We believe that they were forced to go with the flow because of the present development projects, but with this they are endangering the future generation," the priest said.

Catedral said they are facing an invisible fence in their anti-mining campaign in upland areas because of the support given by the lumads to the company.

Because of this, they are strengthening their campaign against mining down to the low-lying communities of farmers and fishermen.

The priest's fear is anchored on the high possibility of contamination of water supply going down to these communities.

What is at stake now, he said, is not only the welfare of the lumads in Tampakan but also residents downstream Liguasan Marsh.

Tampakan is considered as significant watershed area by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources. It is said to be the headwater source of five major rivers in the province of South Cotabato and Sultan Kudarat.

Any mining operations within the area would adversely affect the water supply in the South Cotabato, North Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, General Santos City areas.

Catderal added the Sagittarius mining operation is detrimental to the indigenous flora and fauna and could leave grave negative impact on the entire biodiversity of the region.

Rolando Doria, overall project coordinator of SMI, said the company is sincere in the implementation of responsible mining in Tampakan. This, he added, became the reason why they gained the trust and confidence of the lumads. Doria also said that the company is transparent to prove that they have
nothing to hide in their operations. He also aired confidence that their operations will never cause damages to lives and properties as popularly believed upon.

But not only the issue of environment has attracted the attention of anti-mining groups. The entry of the mining company in South Cotabatao also caused division among the lumads. Now, Catedral said, the lumads had changed their material preferences.

Eliezer Billanes, chairperson of the Coalition of Anti Mining Movements (CAMM) based in South Cotabato, said the lumads must understand that mining could never be the answer to their financial problems.

Billanes said the government should look for alternative development industries, which could help the lumads. He said that not only that mining will ruin the environment it will also endanger the lives of the people.

Catedral said there is no way that the people will benefit from mining but the transnational companies.

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