Group hails DENR decision denying SMI environmental clearance

MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/14 January) — The Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment (Kalikasan PNE) lauded the decision of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources denying the application of Sagittarius Mines Inc. for an environmental compliance certificate for its planned $5.9 billion mining project that straddles three provinces of Mindanao.

In a statement today, Kalikasan-PNE attributed the decision to the “continuing struggles of various sectors in the Far South Mindanao region,” and called it “a direct result of staunch opposition to destructive large-scale mining projects.”

Environment Secretary Ramon Paje, in a memorandum dated January 3, rejected the ECC application of SMI due to the open-pit mining ban imposed by the provincial government of South Cotabato.

“We are returning herewith the application documents with instruction to deny the same, without prejudice to resubmission, until the issues and concern on the use of open-pit mining method shall have been clarified and resolved by the company [SMI] with the provincial government of South Cotabato,” Paje said in the memorandum addressed to Juan Miguel T. Cuna, national director of the Environmental Management Bureau

Cuna in turn issued an order to Sagittarius Mines, dated January 9, which states:

“You are advised to refrain from undertaking any development activity in the areas mentioned in the application for ECC until the same is issued in your favor, including permits from concerned government agencies.”

SMI’s copper-gold project covers the towns of Tampakan in South Cotabato, Columbio in Sultan Kudarat, and Kiblawan in Davao del Sur.

Clemente Bautista, national coordinator of Kalikasan PNE said the decision affirms that “foreign, large-scale mining interests as prescribed by the Mining Act of 1995 are in conflict with the Filipino people’s democratic aspirations for economic development and environmental safety.”

SMI is set to begin commercial operations by 2016. However, it faces an obstacle in the Provincial Environment Code of South Cotabato that bans the open-pit mining method.

Then governor and now South Cotabato Rep. Daisy Avance-Fuentes signed the ordinance shortly before her term as governor ended and amid a growing Church-led opposition to SMI’s copper-gold project. (MindaNews)