Regional Development Council appeals to Fuentes to veto Environment Code

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/26 June) – The Regional Development Council (RDC) of Region 12 (Southwestern Mindanao) has appealed to South Cotabato Governor Daisy Avance-Fuentes to veto Section 22 of the Environment Code which proposes to ban open pit mining, and “its restrictive provisions as these run counter to a national law, particularly the Philippine Mining Act of 1995.”

The RDC, in a letter dated June 17 but received by Fuentes’ office on June 22, said the Council appreciates the Environment Code and respects its provincial board “for its deep commitment to environmental management,” but noted that the passage of the Code “will effectively derail RDC 12’s efforts of moving forward the Tampakan Copper-Gold Project as the flagship minerals development project for Mindanao.”

The letter, signed by RDC 12 chair Miguel Rene A. Dominguez, Sarangani Governor, added the Code’s passage will also “create negative impact on the promotion of major investments in the countryside due to inconsistent policies.”

The RDC 12 Economic Development Committee met on June 16 and agreed that RDC would formally write and appeal to Fuentes.

Region 12 comprises the provinces of South Cotabato, Sarangani, Sultan Kudarat and North Cotabato and the cities of General Santos, Koronadal, Tacurong, Kidapawan, and Cotabato.

The RDC is the highest policy-making body in the region and serves as the counterpart of the NEDA Board at the sub-national level.

The letter, a copy of which was obtained by MindaNews, cited RDC Resolution 69 passed in 2009 which adopted the Tampakan Copper-Gold Project “as a flagship minerals development project of Region 12” and endorsed the same to the Mindanao Economic Development Council (now the Mindanao Development Authority) as Mindanao’s flagship project in minerals development.”

The letter also cited RDC Resolution 6, passed on March 8, 2010, and addressed to the “Honorable Officials of South Cotabato, supporting the position of the (Environment) Secretary to allow open pit mining method subject to existing laws and regulations.”

The letter said the RDC recognized Fuentes’ “apprehension about the proposed mine’s impact on the water resources of South Cotabato” but added that the RDC “requested, through a resolution of the Economic Development Committee, the proponent of Tampakan Copper-Gold Project , Sagittarius Mines, Inc. to immediately present to the South Cotabato Provincial Government its plan on water management.”

“We believe it is imperative for SMI to address apprehensions about the perceived impacts on water supply and quality that will affect the South Cotabato’s downstream communities,” the RDC said.

Fuentes last week said she may veto the environment code if SMI can convince her that the project would not be disastrous to the environment and the livelihood of thousands of farmers.

In earlier interviews, Fuentes said she wanted to hear SMI’s side on a 2008 study by British experts Robert Goodland and Clive Wicks that reported the Tampakan project will dry up a river system traversing the lowlands of South Cotabato which thrive on agriculture.

She noted that for the five years that the environment code was under deliberation, the mining company failed to provide technical details of the project despite repeated demands.

Fuentes last week said the Provincial Board which passed the Code “reflects the voices of the people, and they voted landslide to approve (it). I will sign that before I leave office (on June 30), she said.

“The decision for that issue was overwhelming. It’s difficult to veto it and I have no reason to veto the same,” she said. (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)