‘Tampakan project ECC reconsideration still in the dark’

KORONADAL CITY (MindaNews/14 March) – The appeal of foreign-backed Sagittarius Mines, Inc. before the Philippine government to reconsider the denial of its application for an Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC) remains in the dark more than a month after it was lodged.

Datu Tungko Saikol, Environmental Management Bureau director for Southwestern Mindanao, said on Tuesday they have no information on the outcome of the petition filed by the company last January 27.

He noted that the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, to which the EMB is an attached agency, should have acted within 30 days from the filing of the motion for reconsideration.

“So far there’s no development. Some sectors are pushing for the issuance of the ECC. [Others], specifically the [Catholic] church, really want a denial,” Saikol said in a text message.

He said that while there is a 30-day prescriptive period for action to the petition, the “EMB legal department may have moves unknown to the regional office.

Even if the 30-day prescriptive period does not include Saturdays and Sundays, action for Sagittarius Mines’ motion for reconsideration should have lapsed.

From January 27, it has been 32 days at the time Saikol claimed Tuesday that there is a 30-day prescriptive period for the DENR to act on the motion for reconsideration.

The 30-day period should have ended March 9.

John B. Arnaldo, Sagittarius Mines corporate communication manager, said there is no such 30-day prescriptive period for the DENR to act on its motion for reconsideration.

“I’m not aware of such a rule. That’s why I could not give a definite answer every time the media would ask when do we expect a ruling from the DENR for our petition,” he said on the phone also Tuesday.

Environment Secretary Ramon J.P. Paje instructed last January 3 EMB national director Juan Miguel T. Cuna to deny the application of Sagittarius Mines for an ECC to its Tampakan copper-gold project.

In turn, Cuna informed Sagittarius Mines president Peter Forrestal on January 9 that the firm’s ECC application has been denied.

The reason for the denial of the ECC application was the open-pit mining ban imposed by the South Cotabato provincial government, which was hailed by anti-mining groups spearheaded by the local Catholic Church.
“We are returning herewith the application documents with instruction to deny the same, without prejudice to resubmission, until the issues and concern on the use of open-pit mining method shall have been clarified and resolved by the company [SMI] with the provincial government of South Cotabato,” Paje said in his memorandum.
To date, requests from pro-mining groups to lift the open-pit mining ban, which is contained in the province’s Environment Code, remains pending before the Sangguniang Panlalawigan. (Bong S. Sarmiento / MindaNews)