North Cotabato officials want PNOC drilling in Mt. Apo stopped

Vice Governor Emmanuel Piñol, presiding officer of the provincial board said the drilling violated Republic Act 7160 or the Local Government Code of 1991 as the PNOC did not consult the concerned local government units (LGUs).

Due to the alleged blatant disregard of the powers and functions of the local government, Pinol said they plan to file a suit against the PNOC Energy Development Corporation.

“We want to seek redress.  The PNOC must pay for not consulting the LGUs in their latest drilling operations,” he stressed.

In a resolution passed on Tuesday, the provincial board urged Governor Jesus Sacdalan to ask the local court to order the PNOC to cease and desist from its drilling operations outside its current area of 701 hectares.

“This is an urgent matter that needs to be addressed.   We can’t allow the drilling to continue, especially if it destroys the biodiversity, the mountain’s rainforest, in particular,” Pinol said.

The provincial board also questioned the executive order issued in September 2007 by President Arroyo that declared Mount Apo an “economic zone.”

Mt. Apo, the country’s highest peak, is a protected area. It is home to the endangered Philippine Eagle and other species of forest fauna.

“I wonder why the national government is deciding for us here at the local level.  Do they realize that once Mount Apo is declared an economic zone, the mountain’s rainforest might be destroyed?” asked Pinol.

Such declaration, he stressed, ‘was carelessly done’ by Malacanang, which he tagged as “imperial” Manila.

He explained that the provincial board is not opposed to any development as long it does not violate laws and is initiated by local government units.

Executive Order 661, which declared Mount Apo an economic zone, was signed by President Arroyo in Davao City.

Piñol said that they had given PNOC-EDC President Paul Aquino a chance to explain the drilling operations.

Aquino failed to appear before the provincial board on Tuesday because he reportedly attended a hearing on the issue on PNOC’s membership in Metro Manila.

“Though the PNOC-EDC president has assured us of his willingness to appear before us and explain the whole process, the problem is, after the hearings in Manila, he might be replaced by somebody,” said Piñol.