Diocese of Marbel urges public to join solidarity march against lifting of open-pit mining ban in South Cotabato

KORONADAL CITY (MindaNews / 17 May) – The Diocese of Marbel on Tuesday urged parishioners and residents who are against open-pit mining in South Cotabato to join a solidarity march in the streets of this city on Thursday, 19 May.

Residents of South Cotabato stage a protest against mining in 2010 as they hailed the passage of the provincial government’s Environment Code banning open-pit mining. MindaNews file photo by TOTO LOZANO

Marbel Bishop Cerilo Casicas said the local Catholic Church-led protest was in response to Monday’s decision of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan to lift the ban on open-pit mining in the province, a policy contained in its 12-year-old landmark environment code.
“Please join and help us in this mobilization. This is one way for our voices to be heard. We need warm bodies to show to them that many of us don’t want the lifting of the ban on open-pit mining,” the prelate told reporters late Monday afternoon.
The solidarity march is an appeal to uphold the ban on open-pit mining in South Cotabato, according to the diocesan advisory.
The assembly is set at 8 a.m. at the compound of the Christ the King Cathedral along Alunan Avenue, with the march starting at 9 a.m. going towards the South Cotabato Provincial Capitol.
On Monday,  South Cotabato board members, in a plenary session, approved on second reading the proposed amendments to the Environment Code, including the lifting of the ban on open-pit mining.
No one from among the 11 members of the provincial board present during the session objected and explained their stance in approving the removal of the prohibition on open-pit mining.
The session was presided by board member Glycel Mariano-Trabado, in place of Vice Gov. Vicente de Jesus, who was on leave.
Present during the plenary session were board members Hilario de Pedro VI (principal author of the proposal to remove the ban on open pit mining), Edgar Sambog, Dardanilo Dar, Noel Escobillo, Antonio Fungan, Eamon Gabriel Mati, Henry Ladot, Rolando Malabuyoc, Alyssa Marie Fale and Rose Grace Achurra.
Board member Ester Marin Catorce, who openly stood against the lifting of the open-pit ban, was not present during the session. She was designated as acting governor, as Gov. Reynaldo Tamayo is on leave.
Board members Ellen Grace Subere Albios and Jinky Avance-Samodal were also on leave.
Casicas appealed to reelected Gov. Reynaldo Tamayo Jr. to veto the decision of the provincial board, which stirred outrage among residents of the province who wanted the ban to stay.
The prelate asked the governor to give them an audience and listen to their plea.
The lifting of the ban on open-pit mining removed the 12-year-old thorn in the throat of the $5.9-billion Tampakan project, Southeast Asia’s largest untapped copper and gold minefield.
Sagittarius Mines, Inc. (SMI) is the developer of the mining project, which sits in the town of Tampakan, South Cotabato.
Since 2010, the open-pit mining ban hounded the giant Tampakan project, which has been pursued by SMI since the early 2000s.
SMI earlier revealed in a study that the most viable way to extract the minerals is through open-pit mining. 
The Tampakan project is touted as the largest undeveloped copper-gold minefield in Southeast Asia and among the biggest of its kind in the world.
It has the potential to yield an average of 375,000 tons of copper and 360,000 ounces of gold in concentrate per annum in the expected 17-year life of the mine. 
SMI has repeatedly vowed to employ “responsible mining” in the Tampakan project. (Bong S. Sarmiento / MindaNews)