Host LGUs, business sector laud SMI

In separate letters to SMI General Manager Mark Williams, Columbio Mayor Edwin Bermudez and Kiblawan Mayor Jaime Caminero said they were happy that the LGU of Tampakan has worked to help resolve the recent standoff caused by the illegal padlocking of a few SMI facilities by a small number of agency workers demanding regularization by the company. Columbio, Kiblawan and Tampakan are the three host municipalities of the Tampakan Project. “We are glad that the standoff on the illegal acts had been finally negotiated and resolved peacefully by the LGU of Tampakan. We appreciate the efforts of the local officials of Tampakan in their resolve to perform their responsibilities,” wrote Mayor Caminero. Mayor Bermudez, meanwhile, wrote: “Now that the obstacle to a continuing dialogue had been removed, the parties can now move forward with the process of open communication to have a clear and common understanding to resolve the concerns of the agency workers.” Both mayors reiterated their local governments’ support to the Tampakan Project and to SMI’s socially and environmentally responsible conduct of its operations.  According to SMI, a majority of the project workforce — 43% of the officers and staff, 100% of the laborers and 86% of the contractual employees and consultants — is sourced from local communities. Meanwhile, the South Cotabato Chamber of Commerce and Industry in a statement said the Tampakan LGU’s “sensitivity to the interest of the private sector is encouraging for investors looking at the province.” The statement, signed by Chamber President Carlito Uy, also said that “expression of grievances must be done within the framework of law and order.” “The padlocking of public offices and closure of public roads by protestors are transgressions of the rights of others and are therefore illegal acts. Let also us be cautious that the general interests of all concerned will not be influenced and dominated by third party interests out to derail the resolution of issues and concerns through peaceful negotiation and dialogue,” it added. Mr. Uy said the business sector is happy that SMI “has been living up to its commitment to pursue sustainable development in Tampakan and engaging the community and other stakeholders in sincere dialogue and engagement.” He cited SMI’s contribution to the national and local economies through income tax, VAT, documentary stamp tax, customs, interest on foreign loans,real property tax, occupation fees, registration fees, permit fees, procurement, employee salaries, and community investments. “We all know that responsible development of the mineral resources of Tampakan and its neighbors Columbio and Kiblawan has the great potential to trigger the economic and social development of the host areas and even the whole region. We must ensure that foreign investments coming into our areas be protected, as they create jobs for the local residents and heighten local and regional economic activities,” he added. (Socsksargen Multi-Sectoral Coalition For Sustainable Mineral Development)