The Diocese of Marbel in the southern Philippines called on the faithful who are opposed to open-pit mining in the province of South Cotabato to join a “solidarity march” on Thursday, May 19.
“Please join and help us in this mobilization,” appealed Bishop Cerilo Casicas of Marbel. He said the activity if “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 in a media briefing on Tuesday, May 17.
The provincial government on Monday, May 16, lifted a ban on open-pit mining, removing the final regulatory obstacle for a long-delayed copper and gold project in the country’s restive south.
The Tampakan project on Mindanao island has been described by its developer Sagittarius Mines as “one of the largest undeveloped copper-gold deposits in the world.”
It was previously estimated to cost US$5.9 billion and was due to start operation in 2016.
In a statement, the Diocese of Marbel said the lifting of the open-pit mining ban is “not only sad but tragic.”
“Who will benefit from this decision?” read the statement. “What happens to the voice of the people in South Cotabato who had been adamant in their opposition to the proposed open-pit mining?”
The local Church said noted that many communities in the area have been experiencing tragedies “due to the effects of climate change and global warming.”
“Amending the ban welcomes more serious consequences in the nearby future,” it said.
“As we face economic uncertainties because of the pandemic, a war in Ukraine and other challenges, the least we need at present is to allow open-pit mining in South Cotabato,” read the Church statement.
It said that the “saddest tragedy” that hit the province is that only ten persons, members of the provincial board, “decided for the fate of almost a million people of South Cotabato, not counting the future generation.”
The approval of the lifting of the ban was done despite the signature campaigns against open-pit mining, social media platforms, and broadcast media sentiments that the people made.
“The diocese of Marbel remains hopeful. We continue to call on our people to make their voices of opposition louder against open-pit mining so that they will be heard more,” read the statement.
Bishop Casicas appealed to South Cotabato Governor Reynaldo Tamayo Jr. to veto the decision of the provincial board.
“It is our prayer that the [provincial board] members could still have a change of heart by not overriding the veto,” said the bishop.