MANILA, March 6, 2013— A faith-based group criticized the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) for granting Environmental Clearance Certificate (ECC) to Sagittarius Mines Incorporated’s bid to start copper-gold mining project in Tampakan, South Cotabato.
Philippine-Misereor Partnership Incorporated (PMPI) Advocacy and Legal Officer Atty. Mario Maderazo said the clearance might trigger the start of wanton environmental destruction and human rights violations in Tampakan.
“It is still fresh in the minds of the Filipino people are the mining disasters in Padcal and Semirara where both operations were given ECC’s. If such destructive and deadly disasters will not stop the DENR, we wonder what will make them think rationally,” Maderazo added.
Roldan Gonzales, co-convenor for PMPI Mindanao claimed that the mining project is even more dangerous than the sites of Philex Mining Corporation in Benguet and the Semirara Mining Corporation in Antique.
The Philex was fined a billion pesos recently for polluting the Balog creek in Benguet and the Agno River in Pangasinan while five workers were killed after a large-scale coalmine on Semirara Island collapsed last month. Search and retrieval operations for the five missing are still ongoing.
“Even before the operations begin, human rights violations are already rampant in the Tampakan area highlighted by a massacre of a mother and her two children October last year. Next, the DENR does not support mining operation that exceed 1,000 meters, yet much of the Tampakan project is at 1,100 meters,” Gonzales said.
“This means a leak is more imminent and environmental damage will be more extensive. Even SMI does not deny the fact that their operations will flatten about 3,900 hectares of forests, 1,350 of which are rainforests, effectively ignoring Executive Order No. 23’s ban on the destruction of forests.”
“No less than the Climate Change Commission predicted that Central Mindanao will suffer drought two decades from now and this is what we are doing to forests that helps the maintenance of water supply in the region,” he added.
Gonzales also criticized Malacañang for favouring the mining company instead of attending to the concerns of the residents who will be affected by the project.
“This is very sad because the DENR twice denied the issuance of ECC to SMI but Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa intervened and signed a Palace document sating that SMI has fully complied with the requirement of the Environment Impact Statement System. Such arm-twisting forced the DENR to process and eventually grants an ECC,” he said.
“Is this the straight path, or rather, is it necessary to flatten the mountain in order to achieve a straight path,” added Gonzales.
The PMPI is a partnership between church groups, nongovernment organizations and peoples’ organization in the Philippines and Misereor – the overseas development agency of the Catholic Church in Germany. (Jandel Posion)