Catholic bishops in the southern Philippines submitted a petition to the Office of the President to revoke the mining agreement for the controversial Tampakan mine on October 11.
In the petition, the bishops argued that the extension of the Financial or Technical Assistance Agreement (FTAA) granted to Sagittarius Mines, Inc. (SMI) in 2020 by the Mines and Geosciences Bureau “was unconstitutional”.
“We respectfully reiterate our demand to cancel the illegal extension of FTAA – 002 in favor of Sagittarius Mines, Inc. We respectfully believe that the extension of the FTAA beyond the powers of the MGB and the same must be declared void, especially as the mining operations will impact critical environmental areas,” said Bishop Cerilo Casicas of Marbel, on behalf of the signatories.
Lawyer Rolly Peoro, Direct Legal Services Coordinator of the Legal Rights and Natural Resources Center (LRC), said the FTAA of the Tampakan copper-gold project “has definitively lapsed”.
“SMI should have thus undergone consultations, environmental impact assessment, and other regulatory compliances for renewal,” he said.
Peoro said these processes are safeguards “to ensure that the utilization of our natural resources is held accountable to the highest office and therefore highest regulatory scrutiny”.
Other signatories in the letter are Archbishop Angelito Lampon of Cotabato, Bishop Jose Colin Bagaforo of Kidapawan, and Bishop Guillermo Afable of Digos.
In their petition letter, it was further detailed that SMI’s claim of force majeure as the basis for requiring an extension was unfounded.
The church leaders said the acts cited as constituting force majeure, such as legal and tenurial conflicts, the open-pit mine ban, and civil disturbances, among others, were characterized as assertions of rights that can be duly exercised in the context of the project.
The Tampakan project has been touted as the largest undeveloped copper-gold minefield in Southeast Asia and among the largest of its kind in the world.
Based on a company study, the project has the potential to yield an average of 375,000 tons of copper and 360,000 ounces of gold in concentrate per year in the 17-year life of the mine.