KORONADAL CITY (MindaNews/2 Jan) – Despite the ban on open-pit mining, the Sangguniang Panlalawigan of South Cotabato has granted Gov. Arthur Pingoy Jr. an authority to accept a P25-million donation from San Miguel Corp. for a hospital project even as San Miguel is eyeing a massive coal deposit in Lake Sebu town that can likely be done only using the open-pit mining method.
Vice Gov. Elmo Tolosa said the donation for the construction of a provincial hospital annex “won’t have a bearing” on the implementation of the controversial environment code that prohibits open-pit mining.
“There will be no special favors to the company even with their donation,” Tolosa said, adding the contribution was in line with the firm’s corporate social responsibility.
Pingoy was expected to sign with officials of San Miguel the agreement for the donation within the month.
In a statement, he said the provincial hospital annex in Surallah town is targeted to initially open late in 2012.
San Miguel, Pingoy added, had raised its donation from P15 million to P25 million, and that the firm will be responsible for the construction works for that amount of money instead of the provincial government.
The provincial government has solicited an initial P53 million to jumpstart the hospital, with the P28 million coming from the Department of Health under its Health Facilities Enhancement program.
The Surallah government offered the lot for the medical facility, which would serve patients from the upper valley portions of the province such as Lake Sebu, T’boli, Sto. Niño, Norala and Banga.
It is expected to ease the load of the long-existing provincial hospital in this city serving indigent patients.
Pingoy said the total project cost for the provincial hospital annex could reach P145 million, and that the province will look for more funding for its completion.
Earlier, the governor repeatedly vowed to implement the open-pit ban unless the court nullifies it or the Sangguniang Panlalawigan lifts it.
Requests to lift the ban from pro-mining groups remained pending before the provincial legislative body.
Aside from San Miguel’s coal mining project, the open pit ban poses a risk to the $5.9-billion Tampakan copper-gold project of Sagittarius Mines, Inc., which is controlled by Xstrata Copper, the world’s fourth largest copper producer.
In 2010, San Miguel president Ramon S. Ang announced the company’s plan to venture in a 300-megawatt coal-fired power plant in Region 12.
In line with that, the giant company has acquired the tenements of three coal mining companies, namely, Daguma Agro Minerals Inc., Bonanza Energy Resources Inc. and Sultan Energy Philippines Corp.
Studies showed that Daguma Mountain Range has a coal reserve of 426 million metric tons. Initial exploration and drilling have blocked 55 million metric tons of minable reserves in 526 hectares of the mountain range in Barangay Ned.
Barangay Ned, reportedly a watershed area, is a government-designated relocation site. (Bong S. Sarmiento / MindaNews)