A Catholic bishop in the southern Philippines has hailed a court decision upholding a ban on open-pit mining in South Cotabato province, home to largest untapped deposits of copper and gold in Southeast Asia.
Bishop Cerilo Casicas of Marbel said the court ruling was an “answered prayer” not only for Catholics but for the people of South Cotabato and neighboring provinces.
“With this decision, we are convinced that law and the legal system could be truly used to attain social justice for the people and the environment,” Bishop Casicas said.
“And we are even more motivated to remain steadfast in our mission to safeguard our common home and to be firm in opposing projects which desecrate what God has created, all the more that our law and justice is on our side,” he said.
In its October 12 ruling, a regional trial court in Koronadal City dismissed a motion to invalidate a local environment code that bans open-pit mining in the province.
The decision is seen as a blow for the controversial Tampakan Gold-Copper Project that straddles four provinces in Mindanao including South Cotabato.
The project, which covers around 10,000 hectares, is operated by the Sagittarius Mines, Inc.
Church groups in Marbel diocese have recently revived the Tampakan Forum, a multi-sectoral movement against large-scale mining operations.
The diocese will also serve as the “hub” of various faith-based and environmental organizations in Mindanao.