South Cotabato governor vetoes SP ordinance lifting ban on open-pit mining

KORONADAL CITY (MindaNews / 3 June) – Saying it was hastily decided and includes questionable provisions, South Cotabato Gov. Reynaldo Tamayo Jr. has vetoed the controversial lifting by the Sangguniang Panlalawigan or provincial board two weeks ago of the ban on open-pit mining in the province.

Gov. Reynaldo Tamayo Jr. MindaNews file photo by BONG S. SARMIENTO

Tamayo announced his decision in a public statement at the provincial capitol Friday afternoon, a day before the deadline for him to act on the amendment of the 12-year-old Ordinance No. 22 or the South Cotabato Environment Code.

“Ipinapaalam ko sa buong sambayanan ng South Cotabato na ang Resolution 137, enacting Ordinance No. 23 series of 2022 amending pertinent provisions of the Environment Code of South Cotabato is vetoed by the provincial governor,” he said.

The governor said he mainly heeded the recommendation made by the technical working committee earlier created by his office to study the amendment of the Code, specifically the ban on open-pit mining contained in Section 22.

At least 10 board members approved the proposed changes without any objection on second and third reading during its regulation session on May 16 despite opposition from various sectors and neighboring local government units.

Tamayo said that while he finds the open-pit mining ban as “ultra vires” or beyond the authority of the provincial government being contrary to national laws, he said the board appeared to have rushed its decision on the matter.

He said the amended ordinance also included a provision setting the mandatory review of the Code every 10 years, extending the previous five-year period, a move he considers as another “ulta vires.”

Since the provincial board is already on recess, the governor said he is leaving the next set of legislators to carefully study and eventually decide on it properly.

“They should look into all the angles as to what will be more beneficial for the province,” he said.

Tamayo said his decision has no connection with the fate of the planned $5.9-billion large-scale copper and gold mining project of Sagittarius Mines Inc. (SMI) in Tampakan town, noting that the local government’s jurisdiction only covers small-scale mining.

The province’s ban on open-pit mining has been considered as the only remaining hurdle to the operationalization of the Tampakan project.

SMI had declared open-pit mining as the most viable method in extracting the area’s copper-gold resources, touted as the largest in Southeast Asia and among the biggest of its kind in the world.

The governor earlier said the project can proceed with or without him vetoing the lifting of the open-pit mining ban.

Tamayo said such prohibition set in the Environment Code cannot cover large-scale mining as it is regulated by the national government as provided for in Republic Act 7942 or the Philippine Mining Act.

He added that the national government already allows open-pit mining projects to operate in any part of the country based on an administrative order issued last December by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources. (Allen V. Estabillo / MindaNews)