Church attacks Tampakan mine owners for lack of transparency after school burningPublished by MAC on 2010-02-23
Source: MindaNews, Mindanao Examiner (2010-02-11)
More news from Xstrata's Tampakan mine in Mindanao (see http://www.minesandcommunities.org/article.php?a=9598).
An elementary school has burned down in mysterious circumstances, and people suspect it will be used to escalate militarisation as local indigenous communities are increasingly objecting to the company's plans.
The Catholic Church has been particularly outspoken on the company's lack of transparency, and worries over getting an objective investigation of the school attack.
Church hits Tampakan mining firm for reneging on promise
11 February 2010
KORONADAL CITY (MindaNews/10 Feb) -- The Catholic church here has accused a foreign-backed mining firm for reneging on its promise to provide the church with results of their initial studies conducted on the effect of its proposed operations to the environment and the community.
Fr. Romeo Q. Catedral, social action center director of the Diocese of Marbel, has also expressed fears of militarization in the proposed mining area, which straddles the towns of Tampakan in South Cotabato, Columbio in Sultan Kudarat and Kiblawan in Davao del Sur."They promised to provide us a copy of the [pre-]feasibility study report but until now they failed," Catedral said of Sagittarius Mines, Inc.
October last year, Catedral, along with Marbel Bishop Dinualdo D. Gutierrez and several other local religious and lay leaders, met with senior Filipino executives of Sagittarius and requested for a copy of the pre-feasibility study.
Officials of Sagittarius promised they would.
John B. Arnaldo, Sagittarius corporate communications manager, said they did not renege on the promise. He noted that a month after the meeting, Sagittarius wrote church officials that what the firm could give was the environmental and social impact assessment (ESIA), a public document. "The ESIA will be out by the third quarter this year," he stressed.
Sagittarius Mines is controlled by Xstrata Copper, the world's fourth largest copper producer, with Australian firm Indophil Resources NL.
Aside from opposition from the church and civic groups, the Tampakan project is also dealing with threats from the New People's Army. The rebel group has staged two attacks against Sagittarius in the last two years.
Early this month, armed men attacked the mines development site once more, burning an elementary school that catered mainly to tribal children.
"We believe that the incident could be used to give reason for the deployment of more military personnel in the area, especially that there have been a series of spontaneous protest actions of the B'laans directed against the company since last year" said Sr. Susan O. Bolanio, spokesperson of the SOCSKSARGEN Climate Action Now.
But Arnaldo said the claim was baseless. "We do not engage public security personnel to protect our workforce or assets," he added.
Sagittarius, he said, has hired a private security agency whose personnel has been given "appropriate human rights training." (MindaNews)
School burning prelude to militarization, says environmental rights' group
9 February 2010
KORONADAL CITY, Philippines - A group campaigning against XSTRATA-SMI's Tampakan Copper and Gold Project said it suspects the burning of a government school within its contract area is meant to harass indigenous communities who have openly expressed their discontent against the mining firm.
The SOCSKSARGEN CAN or Climate Action Now said that on February 1, the Datal Biao Elementary School in the village of Danlag in South Cotabato's Tampakan town was burned by still unidentified men. The military blamed the New People's Army rebels for the attack. It said the Datal Biao lies within the Mine Development Area of Xtrata-SMI.
"We believe that the incident could be used to give reason for the deployment of more military personnel in the area especially that there have been series of spontaneous protest actions of the B'laans directed against the company since last year" said SOCSKSARGEN CAN or Climate Action Now spokesperson Sister Susan O. Bolanio.
Earlier reports quoted Dagil Capion, a B'laan leader who led a barricade against XSTRATA-SMI days before the burning, said the incident could be used to justify the permanent deployment of soldiers to stifle opposition to the project.
"For who else would benefit of the military presence, and who else could be interested to have military presence in the area?" asked Bolanio, adding that the military as a state apparatus is tasked to protect investors especially in areas prone to conflict.
The church on the other hand, questions the seemingly lack of effort from the local government to conduct an impartial investigation regarding the burning of the school building.
"We, and even the the affected indigenous peoples' communities are confused by the ease some local authorities point fingers to some groups as suspects without formal investigation," said Father Romeo Catedral, Director of the Social Action Center of the Diocese of Marbel.
Catedral suggested that XSTRATA-SMI, the military and the local government should not participate in the investigation, since "they are never perceived by the local populace as objective".
"This will not be the last unfortunate incident in the area as long as the mining company insists their presence. This company is simply creating more trouble in the guise of development," Catedral said.
Catedral also questioned the sincerity of the mining company in respecting the rights and concerns of the stakeholders including the right to say no to the project as well as in providing the people the necessary information including the results of their feasibility studies.
"They promised to provide us a copy of the feasibility study report but until now they failed," Catedral said.
"The fact that the B'laans protested against XSTRATA-SMI's project makes us believe more that the company lies in projecting itself as responsible and ethical in their conduct of operation. SOCSKSARGEN CAN will continue its campaign against the project," Bolanio said.
SOCSKSARGEN CAN is a multisectoral coalition of various groups working for climate justice and is campaigning for the pull out of XSTRATA-SMI in the region. (Erwin Quinones)