SURIGAO CITY (MindaNews/02 October) — The Diocese of Tandag issued a pastoral statement Thursday categorically opposing mining in the province of Surigao del Sur.
“Today, we reiterate our call to protect the integrity of God’s creation and to defend our people’s right to a healthful and balanced ecology. Likewise, it is our moral duty to protect and defend the right of our people to food security, today and in the future generations,” the statement signed by Most Rev. Nereo P. Ochimar, DD, Bishop of Tandag said.
Surigao del Sur ranks third in Caraga as mineral product exporter after Dinagat and Surigao del Norte, according to the Mines and Geosciences Bureau.
The statement said the province is not only rich in mineral reserves, “but also in biodiversity where we can find endemic species of flora and fauna.”
“Since time immemorial, majority of our people heavily rely on farming and fishing, owning to the abundance of God’s gracious gift and creation. Mining operations, at the outset, appears to generate job opportunities, increase local revenue, and provide benefits to the concerned communities.
“However, as it continued it has become clearer that the jobs provided by mining industries are not secured and even salaries are not just. Tax holidays under RA 7942 contradict the promises on local revenues. The ones who benefited the most are not the people but the very few capitalists,” the statement added.
Odchimar, a former president of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines said the seas and rivers in the province have increased in turbidity, reducing “in half” the marine productivity.
“Heavy siltation due to soil erosion has continued to clog irrigation system leading to a very low rice harvest output,” he said.
The bishop also said the pollution from dust particles has resulted in respiratory diseases.
“Mining, without doubt, directly threatens the life of our people. Its social cost clearly outweighs the benefits it out wittingly preaches. The damage is immediate and fast. Its effect is irreversible,” he said.
“In solidarity with other mining –affected communities in the country, we cringe as we foresee extreme difficulties ahead if the current mining continues to operate in our province. What will be left for the next generations? Where can they access safe water? How can they fish and farm when everything is destroyed already in the name of the present-day profit? What happens to the gift of God’s creation for all,” he said.
Ochimar continued: “In the light, therefore, of the guaranteed benefits, sharing of profits and program of rehabilitation by the Extractive Industry Transparency International under the watchful eye of Bantay Kita, we challenge the mining industry to subject all its operators and members under the terms of this monitoring institution.
“Indeed, if mining industry will truly be valuable, then it must first be beneficial to the people to whom the minerals belong. If mining is inevitable, let it bring peace, justice and development to the people, both today and tomorrow, as a sign of its real progress.”
MGB-Caraga officer-in-charge Adol Patino said Surigao del Sur has three active nickel mining companies.
A fourth company operating in Carrascal town was suspended by MGB violations of environment laws.
Dulmar Raagas, president of the Chamber of Mines in Caraga did not comment on the pastoral statement. (MindaNews)