Bishop wants ban on open pit mining passed

Gutierrez told the provincial board the passage of the code will help the local government effectively prepare for any possible environmental crisis in the future.

"I hope the board will listen to the sentiments of the majority of their constituents and not succumb to pressures from a few interest groups," he said in an interview over radio station Bombo Radyo this morning.

The provincial board has yet to act on the proposed code as of today, about eight months after it was presented in a public consultation and calendared for final deliberation by its committee on environment.

Board member Jose Madanguit, chair of the environment committee, earlier said they decided to delay discussions on the code to allow their members to study more the possible impact of the provision on the ban on open-pit mining.

But Vice Governor Eliordo Ogena had assured that the proposed environment code will be among the priority measures that will be tackled by the provincial board this year.   

Last year, the board members embarked on two study tours in several mining areas in Mindanao and the controversial open-pit mines formerly operated by Lafayette Philippines in Rapu-rapu, Albay. 

The proposed ban was opposed by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, business groups and local governments of the proposed mining area of mining firm Sagittarius Mines Inc. (SMI), which has been exploring the copper and gold resources in the mountains of Tampakan in South Cotabato, Columbio in Sultan Kudarat and Kiblawan in Davao del Sur.

SMI, which is backed by Swiss mining player Xstrata Copper, had signified the possibility of adopting open-pit mining for its operations in the area.

Gutierrez said he could not understand why the provincial board continues to delay the passage of the code as the destructive effects of open-pit mining are very clear.

He said open-pit mining will even put the area at more risk since the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology has reportedly confirmed the presence of at least four fault lines within the proposed mining area of SMI.

He said the presence of the fault lines were affirmed by the ground fissures that were earlier found in several villages in Tampakan.

Aside from the fault lines, the two active volcanoes near the area – Mt. Matutum and Mt. Parker – add up to the risk the area is facing.       

"(Phivolcs) had warned that the area is at risk to strong earthquakes and other disasters so it's very important that we make sure the area is properly conserved and protected and not threatened by any form of destructive mining," the bishop added. (Allen V. Estabillo/MindaNews)