KORONADAL CITY (MindaNews/04 July)– The Philippine Misereor Partnership, Inc. (PMPI) has launched an online petition seeking transparency on the money coming from foreign-backed Sagittarius Mines, Inc. (SMI) allegedly to support security measures around the Tampakan copper-gold project area.
Fr. Oliver Castor, PMPI advocacy officer, said the online campaign was launched late last week after the presentation to the government of the Human Rights Impact Assessment (HRIA) on the Tampakan project conducted by the Institute for Development and Peace (INEF).
The INEF study—funded by aid organizations Swiss Lenten Fund, Misereor and Bread for All—concluded that “it seems today that conducting the Tampakan mine project will not be possible without a serious impact on human rights.” SMI claimed the study “lacked balance, objectivity and transparency.”
The online petition was particularly directed to Mayor Marivic Diamante of Kiblawan in Davao del Sur, one of the towns straddled by the Tampakan project that also covers Tampakan in South Cotabato and Columbio in Sultan Kudarat.
“This practice is highly questionable since the local government unit of Kiblawan is involved in the granting of approval or permit for the mining operations of SMI and any monetary gift from the company could be legally constituted as bribery as it compromises the supposedly balanced and objective decision-making of the said municipal government,” Castor said.
In a congressional hearing in this city last February, Diamante and Col. Marcos Norman Flores, commander of the 1002nd Infantry Brigade, both admitted that SMI is giving financial aid to the Armed Forces of the Philippines, through the office of Diamante, amounting to about a million pesos monthly, according to the petition posted at www.change.org.
The petition gathered 172 signatures as of Thursday.
Castor explained that their online initiative aims to complement the 170,000 signatures gathered by the Social Action Center (SAC) of the Diocese of Marbel from the areas around the mining site.
“Our online petition seeks to broaden the resistance against the connivance of some LGUs, SMI, and the military to protect the mining interests in Mindanao. We aim to include other supporters through an online action as most of the 170,000 signatures gathered by SAC-Marbel came from indigenous and rural communities that do not have internet connection,” he said.
Bishops Dinualdo Gutierrez, Guillermo Afable and Romulo dela Cruz of the dioceses of Marbel, Digos and Kidapawan, respectively, earlier strongly supported the signature campaign of the SAC.
Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo, chairman of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines’ National Secretariat for Social Action-Justice and Peace, has signed the online petition, and even started his own online petition directed to President Benigno Aquino III to stop the Tampakan project.
Pabillo urged the President to cancel the financial and technical assistance agreement given to SMI, which is now controlled by Glencore Xstrata plc following the merger of Glencore International plc and Xstrata plc.
Diamante could not be contacted for comments on the online petition of PMPI.
But John Arnaldo, SMI external communications and media relations manager, earlier admitted that SMI is helping fund the logistics of government forces in the mines development site.
“The CAFGUs are funded by the Community Peace and Security Programs (CPSP) instigated and run by the municipalities of Kiblawan (in Davao del Sur) and Tampakan (in South Cotabato),” he said.
Arnaldo said that both SMI and the LGUs contribute funds to the CPSP.
Pressed how much is the contribution of SMI, Arnaldo said “he is not aware” of the amount.
Arnaldo clarified later that “SMI contributes fund to the LGUs as per their request and that it is the LGUs’ discretion to allocate the money.” (Bong S. Sarmiento/MindaNews)