February 19, 2013
Faith-based group slams issuance of ECC to SMI:
‘Sa tuwid na daan, ipapatag ba ang mga bundok?’
Leaders of the church-based group Philippine-Misereor Partnership Incorporated (PMPI) today lambasted DENR’s granting of an Environmental Clearance Certificate to Sagittarius Mines Incorporated’s (SMI) bid to start their copper-gold mining project in Tampakan, South Cotabato.
Atty. Mario Maderazo, Advocacy and Legal Officer of PMPI, said, “This clearance is the beginning of wanton environmental destruction and human rights violations in Tampakan. Still fresh in the minds of the Filipino people are the mining disasters in Padcal and Semirara, and both these operations were given ECCs. If such destructive and deadly disasters will not stop the DENR, we wonder what will make them think rationally.”
It can be remembered that the Philex Mining Corporation was fined a billion pesos recently for polluting the Balog creek in Benguet and the Agno river in Pangasinan August last year while five workers of Semirara Mining Corporation in Antique were found dead while another five are still missing after being buried by tons of soil when a portion of their open mine pit collapsed a few days ago.
“In our view, the project in Tampakan is even more dangerous than those two sites. First, even before the operations begin, human rights violations are already rampant in the area highlighted by a massacre of a mother and her two children October last year. Second, the DENR does not support mining operations that exceed 1000 meters yet much of the Tampakan project is at 1100 meters. This means a leak is more imminent, and environmental damage will be more extensive. Third, 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,” asserted Roldan Gonzales, Co-Convenor for Mindanao of PMPI.
“This is very sad,” Gonzales continued, “because the DENR twice denied the issuance of an ECC to SMI. But Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa intervened and signed a Palace document that says SMI has fully-complied with the requirement of the Environment Impact Statement (EIS) System. Such arm-twisting forced the DENR to process and eventually grant an ECC. This begs the question, ito ba ang tuwid na daan? Or rather, sa tuwid na daan ba ay kailangang patagin ang mga bundok?”
PMPI vowed to continue campaigning against the Tampakan project through mass actions, lobbying and negotiations. Atty. Maderazo also said that they will participate in the Congressional investigation initiated by Representative Teddy Baguilat.
PMPI is a partnership between non-government organizations, people’s organizations and church groups in the Philippines, and Misereor, the overseas development agency of the Catholic Church in Germany. ###
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