SoCot considering review of controversial environment code

KORONADAL CITY (MindaNews/3 Nov) — The Sangguniang Panlalawigan of South Cotabato will be conducting a preliminary hearing to listen to opposing views on the province’s controversial environment code that bans open-pit mining method.

“It would give committee members the chance to hear the opposing views, which would help us decide whether to review the environment code,” said lawyer Ernesto I. Catedral, who chairs the provincial board’s environment committee.

There is no definite date, but the hearings would reportedly start as soon as the committee could finalize the internal rules that would govern the consultations.

There has been a persistent call from some quarters, particularly those supportive of the mining ventures of Sagittarius Mines, Inc., to review the code. The foreign-backed Sagittarius has a plan to do major mining activities at its Tampakan project, said to be rich in copper and gold deposits.

Passed last June, the provincial government is currently crafting the implementing rules and regulations of the environment code.

Gov. Arthur Y. Pingoy Jr. said he recently issued the executive order creating the technical working group, spearheaded by the Provincial Planning and Development Office, that will make the draft. He has said he will implement the environment code, which will thus be a major stumbling block to Sagittarius’s plan, unless nullified by a court or the provincial board.

The environment code was approved during the time of Pingoy’s predecessor, now second district Rep. Daisy P. Avance-Fuentes. Her allies in the provincial board remain a majority in the new set of legislators, including Catedral.

Vice Governor Elmo B. Tolosa, SP presiding officer, has urged the provincial executive department to carefully study the drafting of the IRR.

“The IRR is not easy to make considering [that the environment code] is a very sensitive and controversial issue. This must be approached with utmost care, consideration, discretion and wisdom,” Tolosa said.

Marbel Bishop Dinualdo D. Gutierrez opposed any review of the environment code, noting this should be the legacy of the provincial board to the people of South Cotabato.

The Tampakan project, which is targeted for commercial operation by 2016, has the potential to yield at least 12.8 million tons of copper and 15.2 million ounces of gold.

Constancio A. Paye, Jr., regional director of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau, said the talks with Pingoy for a compromise deal, as earlier directed by President Benigno C. Aquino III, did not yield positive results. (MindaNews)