ATM dismayed over LGU inaction on CA decision allowing open-pit mining for large-scale mining
ATM Statement | March 23, 2023
Alyansa Tigil Mina expressed dismay today regarding the inaction of the provincial government of South Cotabato on a Court of Appeals decision handed down last year, which declared valid the Provincial Environmental Code yet qualified that the ban on open pit mining was only limited to small scale mining and does not apply to large-scale mining.
“We are extremely disappointed at the Court’s decision, which virtually curtails local autonomy by modifying the applicability of the ban on open-pit mining. Yet, we are also deeply frustrated at the local government for keeping mum about the CA decision, which was issued last August 22, 2022. It’s seven months since the Court handed down its ruling but it is only now that we’ve heard of it,” said Jaybee Garganera, ATM National Coordinator.
“Being party to the case, the local government must have certainly known about the decision. But why did they choose to be quiet? Why did they not inform the public about this, especially the advocates against mining in Tampakan? We feel deceived and betrayed,” said Rene Pamplona, ATM Chairperson and one of the local leaders opposing large-scale mining in Tampakan.
According to Pamplona, the provincial government has decided not to appeal the case, citing that the decision did not invalidate the ordinance banning open-pit mining. “Instead, the provincial government said it will simply adjust the ordinance to reflect the Court’s decision that the ban on open-pit mining is only applicable to small-scale mining.”
“This is unacceptable. The provincial government seems to be deliberately trampling on the spirit of the provincial ordinance banning open-pit mining. We have been fighting for a ban against open pit mining precisely because of its harsh impacts. It is therefore preposterous that a ban be applied to only small-scale mining but not to large-scale mining, particularly the Tampakan gold and copper project by Sagittarius Mines, Inc.” Pamplona said.
Pamplona pointed out that in South Cotabato alone, there are eleven (11) Mineral Production Sharing Agreements (MPSAs) and one (1) Financial or Technical Assistance Agreement (FTAA). “The ban on open pit mining method is the only thing right now that is preventing the total destruction of South Cotabato, the food basket of the Philippines.”
Judy Pasimio, Coordinator of Purple Action for Indigenous Women’s Right (LILAK) and member of ATM’s Council of Leaders, said, “This is not the time for the provincial government to abandon the fight of the residents of South Cotabato. We strongly urge the local government to act on the interest of the people and the environment, and file an appeal.”
Atty. Mai Taqueban, Executive-Director of Legal Rights and Natural Resources Center (LRC), said “The provincial government must not renege on its task to fight for the total ban on open pit mining, given the decades of struggle of the people of South Cotabato to put in place a ban. The provincial officials must put up a proper defense to retain the ban on open pit mining.”
Atty. Grizelda “Gerthie” Mayo-Anda of Environmental Legal Assistance Center (ELAC) said, "While we respect the CA decision, this is not yet the end of the battle for local government units, concerned community and environmental groups. LGUs can push for its own sustainable development path in other ways, and the provincial government of South Cotabato must fight for the right of its citizens to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment, now recognized as a human right by the United Nations General Assembly. Concerned community and environmental groups must continue to assert their rights given the potential threats and environmental harms that the Tampakan mining can cause on the lives, culture and livelihood of the communities as well as the biodiversity of South Cotabato.”