Tampakan mayor backs mining firm’s bid for ECC reconsideration

KORONADAL CITY (MindaNews/2 Feb) – Beleaguered foreign-backed Sagittarius Mines, Inc. has gained the support of the mayor of Tampakan in South Cotabato for the reconsideration of its rejected application for an environmental compliance certificate (ECC).

Mayor Leonardo Escobillo Sr. appealed Wednesday to President Benigno C. Aquino III to reconsider last month’s decision of Environment Secretary Ramon Paje denying the mining firm’s ECC.

Escobillo said that “several sectors in Tampakan wanted a reconsideration of the DENR decision” so that Sagittarius Mines can proceed to production stage.

“This action among our constituents is not a surprise given the massive support that our communities acquired from the company development assistance of SMI and the corresponding economic contribution to the dynamism of the business community,” the mayor said.

At the same time, Escobillo urged anew the provincial government of South Cotabato to thresh out the open-pit mining ban contained in its environmental code, as it puts Tampakan officials “in a dilemma” on the consistency of the ordinance to Republic Act 7942 or the Philippine Mining Act of 1995, which does not ban the open-pit method.

Paje had denied the ECC application of Sagittarius Mines in deference to the open-pit mining ban imposed by South Cotabato, asking the mining firm to first resolve the issue with the provincial government.

Last Friday (January 27), Sagittarius Mines formally lodged a motion for reconsideration before the DENR.

But Gov. Arthur Pingoy Jr. maintained the ban on open-pit mining stays until the Sangguniang Panlalawigan lifts it or a court nullifies it.

The Sangguniang Panlalawigan has yet to come up with a decision regarding requests to review the environment code, particularly the lifting of the prohibition.

The local Catholic Church, which is staunchly opposing the Tampakan copper-gold project, rejoiced over the denial of the ECC and urged the provincial government to stay firm with the open-pit mining ban policy.

In coming out to help Sagittarius Mines in its bid for the ECC reconsideration, Escobillo noted the Tampakan government “equally exerts efforts to ensure that development infused in the locality is within the context of sustainable development.”

For the past 12 years, Escobillo also said his constituents have gained socio-economic benefits from the exploration activities of mining companies.

Western Mining Corp. initially explored the Tampakan project, which Sagittarius Mines eventually acquired.

“While we understand that any development has a corresponding trade-off, our bottom line is to have greater gains than consequences in any development being implemented within our political responsibility,” Escobillo said.

The mayor said they are working closely with Sagittarius Mines to “ensure that its mining-related activities within the municipality conform with the law and in support to our effort of bringing about sustainable development in the lives of our people.”

The Environmental Impact Study submitted by Sagittarius Mines was in consonance with the requirements set under the law, Escobillo said.

Xstrata Copper, the world’s fourth largest copper producer, controls Sagittarius Mines, with Australian firm Indophil Resources NL as the junior equity partner. (Bong S. Sarmiento / MindaNews)