October 22, 2020 (5:27 PM)

4 min read


MORE HARM THAN GOOD. Ateneo de Davao University (AdDU) President Fr. Joel Tabora, SJ criticizes the Tampakan Mining Project in South Cotabato emphasizing it doing more harm than good to the country in a virtual Pakighinabi, October 20. Photo by Jeni Anne Rosario

Expressing his opposition to the Tampakan Mining Project in South Cotabato, Ateneo de Davao University (AdDU) President Fr. Joel Tabora, SJ on a virtual Pakighinabi last Tuesday urged people “to protect the country from mining” and stressed that mining will destroy Mindanao’s biodiversity.

When asked about ‘responsible mining’ in the Philippines, Tabora said mining would “not be appropriate” in an archipelagic country like the Philippines.

“How can you talk about responsible mining when we [our country] are an archipelago? You put a big hole in an island. You are [going to] affect the whole island. Even if it is the largest [mine] in Mindanao, you put a huge hole in Tampakan. You are going to poison its rivers,” the President said.

He added that mining “is not helping the common good in the country” and urged the audience to promote politics for the common good.

“We need politics to take over the economy: a politics that is based on being human and not politics that is based on private interest,” he said.

Call for disapproval ‘with finality’

In his talk, Tabora enumerated the risks to Mindanao once the mining project is approved. These include the contamination of Mal river, the Philippines’ biggest river system, and the death of 812 flora species, 247 of which are Philippine endemics.

Intensified conflicts among pro and anti mining groups in the community and disturbances to water catchments for Mindanao’s agricultural and food security are also feared, according to Tabora. 

“For these reasons, I appeal that the Tampakan Mine Project of SMI/Xstrata be disapproved with finality. The disapproval should not be based on the conflict of the national (RA 7942) and provincial (South Cotabato Ordinance No. 4-2010) laws alone, but in the context of social justice and the correlate principle of the common good,” he stated.

The AdDU President concluded by urging the government to “come to the defense of the environment and protect the interests of the Filipino people, living now and the generations yet to come.”

Effects on Indigenous Peoples

Tampakan’s Blaan leader Nora Sukal, in a recorded video message, shared that the mining project threatens their environment and puts them at risk of inter-tribal divisions.

“Ang kalikasan ay unti-unting pinapatay. Imbes na ito ay ating protektahan, tayo pa mismo ang gumagawa ng pagsisira nito,” Sukal said.

“Kasabay ng pagkasira ng kalikas ay ang pagkasira ng buong komunidad. Ang dating buo at sulidong komunidad ng Blaan ay nagkapirapiraso [dahil sa kompanyang ito],” she added.

She stated that she hopes SMI will not pursue the project so that her community will be restored.

“Sa pagtangal ng kompanya, maisaayos paunti-unti ang lahat… unti-unti magkakabuo ang [dating] pirapirasong komunidad ng tribong Blaan,” she concluded.

Tampakan Mining Project

In 2017, late Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Gina Lopez terminated the SMI Mining Project’s environment compliance certificate (ECC).

However, President Duterte’s office revived the ECC effective May 6, 2019. 

The Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) ordered a 12-year extension following SMI’s 25-year financial and technical assistance agreement (FTAA), which was supposed to expire last March 21, 2020. The said extension will allow SMI to continue operations until 2032.

The extension was ordered last June 8, 2016, but was made public in January 2020.

Last August 10, 2020, the municipality of Tampakan canceled an agreement with Sagittarius Mines, Inc. in exploiting its mineral reserves through a copper and gold mine project worth $5.9 billion.

However, a Mongabay report stated that municipal legislators, though “no longer interested in reviewing the 2009 municipal principal agreement (MPA),” are still “open to creating and formulating a new agreement.” 

If given permission to be operational, the said project will be the largest open-pit gold-copper mine in the Philippines.

The said Pakighinabi titled “Balik Lantaw sa Tampakan” was organized by Ecoteneo, UCEAC, and APILA as part of their revived campaign against the Tampakan Mining Project. It will be succeeded by another dialogue on October 30.

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