South Cotabato

Hundreds rally against lifting of open-pit mining ban in South Cotabato

Rommel Rebollido
Hundreds rally against lifting of open-pit mining ban in South Cotabato

OPPOSE. Protesters take to the streets against the lifting of the ban on open-pit mining in South Cotabato, on Thursday, May 19.

Rommel Rebollido / Rappler

More than a thousand protesters pressure South Cotabato Governor Reynaldo Tamayo Jr. to come out and assure them that he would act on their concerns about the amendment of the province's environment code

SOUTH COTABATO, Philippines – Hundreds have flocked to the South Cotabato provincial capitol in Koronadal City since Wednesday night, May 18, to protest the local legislature’s lifting of a 12-year-old ban on open-pit mining in the province.

By Thursday morning, May 19, protesters reached over a thousand, pressuring South Cotabato Governor Reynaldo Tamayo Jr. to come out and assure them that he would act on their concerns.

The uproar came after the provincial board amended on Monday, May 16, the 2010 South Cotabato Environment Code that, in effect, lifted the ban on open-pit mining in the province.

PROTEST IN SOUTH COTABATO. Protesters gather outside the South Cotabato provincial capitol on Thursday, May 19, against the lifting of the ban on open-pit mining in the province. – Rommel Rebollido / Rappler 

The move was seen to benefit multinational mining companies, particularly Sagittarius Mining Incorporated (SMI) which wanted to pursue the controversial $5.9-billion Tampakan project aimed at extracting minerals from the largest untapped copper-gold deposit in Southeast Asia, which is also one of the world’s biggest.

The Tampakan project is seen to yield about 375,000 tons of copper, and 360,000 ounces of gold, but it was greeted by strong opposition from various sectors, religious and environmental groups, and development organizations.

The rally prompted Governor Tamayo to meet with Marbel Catholic Bishop Cerilo Casicas. They agreed to form a technical working group that would recommend what actions to take about the provincial board’s approval of the code’s amendment.

Casicas earlier called on Tamayo to veto the amendment, saying the move to allow open-pit mining was something “that even God will not approve.”

“That group will be formed hours from now,” assured Tamayo to appease the protesters that gathered at the capitol.

Tamayo said the technical team would be composed of experts who would collaborate with the group of Bishop Casicas, and submit their recommendations the soonest.

APPEASE. South Cotabato Governor Reynaldo Tamayo Jr. speaks to protesters on Thursday, May 19, and assures them he would act on their concerns about the decision of the provincial board to amend the 2010 South Cotabato Environment Code. – Rommel Rebollido / Rappler

Some of the protesters who trooped to the capital of South Cotabato since Wednesday night came from nearby cities and provinces. They spent the night in a vigil at the Christ the King Cathedral where they lit candles as a display of protest.

“People are hoping that the provincial board’s decision would be reversed,” said Chinkie Peliño-Golle, executive director of the non-governmental organization Interfacing Development Initiatives for Sustainability (IDIS). – Rappler.com

Rommel Rebollido is a Mindanao-based journalist and an awardee of the Aries Rufo Journalism Fellowship.