Groups Hit DENR for Seeking Compromise on Controversial Mining Deal Says DENR should protect environment, not investor interests

Manila – Various groups criticized the DENR today, for pushing for a compromise deal on the controversial Tampakan mining project in South Cotabato.  Sec. Ramon Paje was quoted yesterday in major dailies, that the “DENR will protect the investment” in the threatened mining project.  According to Paje, the marching order for him was to find a “win-win solution” to this issue.  The Province of South Cotabato formalized its passage of its Environment Code last June 28, putting a ban on open pit mining.   The local code has effectively put in limbo one of the largest mining project in the country.  It is expected that owners and operators of the mining project will question the legality of the local ordinance to the Supreme Court.

“Mr. Paje is continuing the deluded policy of previous DENR secretaries that they are promoters and protectors of mining investments” stated Jaybee Garganera, National Coordinator of Alyansa Tigil Mina (ATM).  He said the agency must depart from its misdirected track and insisted that “the DENR must not assume the role of facilitating a compromise on this controversial mining issue”.  He concluded that the DENR’s first and foremost responsibility is “to ensure that the decision of the local government to protect their environment against destructive mining is enforced, and not to promote the interest of XSTRATA and Indophil”.  ATM and its members have been extending support to the passage of the Provincial Environmental Code.

Local leaders from South Cotabato exclaimed surprise from this announcement by DENR.  They asserted that the environment code of South Cotabato was a product of collective efforts from different sectors in the province, neighboring communities and concerned groups, took more than five years and was not produced overnight.   Fr. Romeo Catedral, Director of the Social Action Center from the Diocese of Marbel, reacted that the pronouncement from the national government to find a compromise to allow Xstrata to continue its operations in South Cotabato is “undermining not only the efforts but also the expression of empowerment thru the Environment Code by the people of South Cotabato”. He added that “what we need now is to be respected and to be heard in our desire for a truly sustainable and environment-friendly development”.

Church leaders here in Manila also expressed their concern on Paje’s statements.  Fr. Edu Gariguez, Executive Secretary of the CBCP National Secretariat of Social Action (CBCP-NASSA), stated that “we reiterate the Catholic Church’s position of supporting the Diocese of Marbel and the people of South Cotabato in pursuing environmental protection”. He also challenged the DENR to “respect this decision of the LGU to implement their stewardship of the earth and protecting the integrity of creation.  The influential Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) has consistently opposed the promotion of large-scale mining in the country, issuing several pastoral statements on the matter.

Meanwhile, a national environmental group aired their assessment of the DENR move.  Blas Tabaranza, Executive Director of HARIBON, said that “a compromise with the mining company means a compromised environment and future for us.  2010 is the International Year of Biodiversity and we appeal to the government to bear in mind that the destruction of our biodiversity spells disaster”.  He added that “any win-win solution should consider a future that spells a healthy environment that provides a perpetual source of water, clean air and livelihood for all Filipinos”.

Legal groups here in Manila vigorously defended the merit of the local environment code.  Judy Pasimio, Executive Director of Legal Rights and Natural Resources Center – Friends of the Earth (LRC-FOE), highlighted that the South Cotabato Environment Code is one of the few brilliant pieces of legislation that came out of the dark period of the Arroyo regime.  She posed a challenge to the President, stating that PNoy would do well in his vow to correct injustices of the past administration by respecting and protecting this local code.  “There should absolutely be no compromise on environment and people’s rights”, she concluded.

Reacting to the alleged marching orders of PNoy to find a compromise, the 300-organization strong Philippine Misereor Partnership, Inc. (PMPI), reminded the President on his contract with the people he issued in his inauguration address.  Atty. Macario Maderazo, National Coordinator of the PMPI Anti-Mining Campaign (PMP-AMC), said that any effort of PNoy’s administration to broker a compromise on the implementation of the Environment Code will be a tacit support to the previous administration’s policy of aggressive promotion of large-scale mining. “PNoy should not defy his Bosses – the People! Otherwise, he will be squandering the popular support that he has gained so far”, he added.

Alyansa Tigil Mina (ATM) is an alliance of mining-affected communities and their support groups of NGOs/POs and other civil society organizations who are opposing the aggressive promotion of large-scale mining in the Philippines. The group is calling for the scrapping of the Philippine Mining Act of 1995 and the enactment of a new mineral management law.  They are also pushing for the revocation of EO 270-A and a moratorium on all large-scale mining applications and operations.  ATM is convened by HARIBON Foundation, Legal Rights and Natural Resources Center – Kasama sa Kalikasan / Friends of the Earth Philippines (LRC-KsK/FOEI) and the Philippine Partnership for the Development of Human Resources in Rural Areas (PhilDHRRA).

Philippine Misereor Partnership, Inc. (PMPI) is a network of more than 300 organizations composed of church-based organizations, POs and NGOs, spread all over the country who are engaged in development work and advocacy for justice and peace.

For more information:

Fr. Edu Gariguez, Executive Secretary, CBCP-NASSA – (0919) 800-55-95 / [email protected]

Fr. Romeo Catedral, Director, SAC-Marbel – (0920) 234-56-52 / [email protected]

Macario Maderazo, Coordinator, PMPI-AMC – (0915) 454-92-63 / [email protected]

Judy Pasimio, Executive Director, LRC-KsK/FOEI – (0917) 526-83-41 / [email protected]

Anabel Plantilla, Director, HARIBON – (0917) 527-06-06 / [email protected]

Jaybee Garganera, Coordinator, ATM – (0915) 315-37-19 / [email protected]

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