‘Campaigns vs mining, coal-fired power plant will continue’

KORONADAL CITY (MindaNews/09 July) — The Diocese of Marbel’s opposition against mining and coal-fired power projects in Southwestern Mindanao won’t waver despite the change of leadership at the social action center, the new head of office, Fr. Gillarme Joy Peliño, said.

Peliño replaced Fr. Romeo Catedral, who has gone on a sabbatical leave.

Under Catedral’s leadership, the SAC was at the forefront of the diocesan opposition against the mining venture of foreign-backed Sagittarius Mines, Inc.

With the backing of Diocese of Marbel Bishop Dinualdo Gutierrez, the SAC under Catedral’s stint also expressed strong opposition to the planned 200-megawatt coal-fired power plant project of Alcantara-led Conal Holdings Corp.

“I will continue what the SAC under Fr. Roming [Catedral] has been doing,” said Peliño, who assumed office on July 1.

Peliño previously served as the manager of DXCP, a diocesan-owned radio station in General Santos City.

Catedral said his sabbatical leave, along with the other diocesan priests, was planned as early as 2004.

Every year, four diocesan priests are bound to take their sabbatical leave.

“I already requested two years ago to have an assistant director at the Social Action Center to prepare him to take over when I avail of my sabbatical,” Catedral said.

Over the years, the SAC, which is based in this city, has successfully mobilized tens of thousands of people in protesting the Tampakan copper-gold project of Sagittarius Mines and the $450-million coal plant project of Conal Holdings.

It also actively pushed for the approval of the environment code of South Cotabato that bans the open-pit mining method.

Sagittarius Mines plans to use open-pit mining in extracting the deposits in the Tampakan project, touted as the largest known undeveloped copper-gold deposit in Southeast Asia.

The company, despite the risk posed by the open-pit mining ban, plans to start commercial operations in 2016 with an investment cost of $5.9 billion.

On the other hand, Conal Holdings, through new subsidiary Sarangani Energy Corp., is eyeing to start the construction of its coal-fired power plant within the year in Maasim, Sarangani.

Both companies earlier claimed their projects will be safe to the environment and human health, which are among the major concerns of the diocese in waging the opposition. (Bong Sarmiento/MindaNews)