The Diocese of Marbel in the southern Philippines commended the decision of the local government of Tampakan town in South Cotabato province to terminate a contract with a mining company.
Father Jerome Millan, social action director of the diocese, said the decision of the local officials to end the 2009 Municipal Principal Agreement with Sagittarius Mines Inc was “courageous and heroic.”
Early this month, the town council of Tampakan passed a resolution concluding the contract that allowed the mining company to operate the Tampakan Gold-Copper Project.
The local government cited some provisions in the agreement that were “vague and disadvantageous to the people of Tampakan” for terminating the deal.
The town council said certain provisions in the contract “restrict” the local government from exercising its role in protecting its people “who are unable to protect themselves.”
The Tampakan Gold-Copper Project in Mindanao is the largest undeveloped copper-gold resource in Southeast Asia. It is the single largest foreign direct investment in the Philippines.
On March 22, 1995, the Philippine government entered into a financial and technical assistance agreement with the mining company for US$5.9 billion.
The FTAA, which expired on March 22, 2020, was awarded a 12-year extension by the Mines and Geosciences Bureau of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources last year.
Father Millan said the move of the local government “should inspire” other municipalities and provinces affected by the mining project “to enact laws that will disallow environmental destruction.”
Prior to the initiative of the local government, at least three village councils directly affected by the mining project passed their respective resolutions to terminate agreements with the mining firm.
Father Millan told LiCAS.news that these villages “are now not allowing the entry of the mining company’s personnel to conduct various activities.”
The priest, however, said residents of Tampakan town and the people of four provinces affected by the project “must remain vigilant.”
He said corporations with huge economic interest “will do anything to pursue their plans.”
The project was granted an environmental compliance certificate by the government in 2013 even as the government of the province of South Cotabato banned open-pit mining.
On February 14, 2017, the late Environment Secretary Regina Paz Lopez canceled the ECC of the mining firm for failure to comply with the requirements set by the agency.
In July, authorities announced that the Office of the President has reinstated the ECC of the company on May 6, 2019.
The ECC is one of the requirements needed to proceed to the commercial production phase of the project.
In February, the Diocese of Marbel revived the “Tampakan Forum,” a network against large-scale mining projects, with more than 50 environmental groups and tribal communities.
The Tampakan Forum was first organized in 2011 by the diocese’s social action center to support communities affected by mining.