MAC/20: Mines and Communities

Koronadal church firm versus Tampakan mining

Published by MAC on 2004-10-10

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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