A Catholic bishop in the southern Philippines challenged local officials in the province of South Cotabato to defend the province’s ban on open-pit mining after an appeals court ruled that its application is limited only to small-scale operations.
In a recent letter to Governor Reynaldo Tamayo, Bishop Cerilo Casicas of Marbel urged the official “to exert his best effort to defend the rights of the people to a balanced and healthy ecology.”
“It is of vital importance that the true meaning and heart of the ordinance is not in any way compromised or defeated,” Bishop Casicas said.
The bishop urged the governor to join them in “the moral imperative to act together decisively in order to save our common home.”
He said that mining operations will erase vast areas of agricultural lands, destroy the remaining watershed, and will cause massive flooding in Mindanao.
Undaunted by the court ruling, Bishop Casicas said, “We remain firm with our stand that open-pit mining operations in South Cotabato pose a great risk to the integrity of the environment of our province and its neighbors.”
“At stake are the health and livelihoods of many,” he said.
The prelate also asked Tamayo for a dialogue on the court ruling “and to enlighten us on what their plan of action is regarding this decision.”
Meanwhile, the Legal Rights and Natural Resources Center, which works with communities threatened by the risks of open pit mining projects, said the provincial government can still appeal the decision of the Court of Appeals.
“This is not the end of the line for the open pit mining ban,” said lawyer Rolly Peoro, Direct Legal Services coordinator of LRC.
“Certainly the provincial government on behalf of their constituencies has the duty to appeal the CA decision precisely as the decision recognizes their police powers,” he said.
“The regulatory role granted to local governments is very much part of the national level of mineral and resource governance laws, and hence cannot be limited to just small-scale mining projects,” added Peoro.
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