GENERAL SANTOS CITY, Philippines – Environmental activists on Sunday, June 5, welcomed the decision of two provincial board members to withdraw their support for the amendment of South Cotabato’s 12-year-old environment code as protests against the move snowballed.
The two provincial board members – Alyssa Marie Fale and Rose Grace Achurra – also apologized to the public for allowing the approval of the May 16 amendment of the provincial law which, in effect, lifted the more than a decade-old open-pit mining ban in South Cotabato.
Rene Pamplona, chairman of the Alyansa Tigil Mina (ATM) coalition, lauded Fale and Achurra for their “change of heart,” nine days after the provincial board greenlit the lifting of the ban on the motion of outgoing provincial board member Hilario De Pedro VI, the chairman of the legislature’s environment committee.
Governor Reynaldo Tamayo Jr. on Friday, June 3, vetoed the amended code.
Fale and Achurra asked for forgiveness for keeping silent.
Achurra, the president of the councilors’ league in the province, said she had always taken an anti-open pit mining position, but explained that the provincial board’s proceedings on May 16 went so fast.
She said she was caught aback, and kept silent, allowing the provincial board to quickly approve De Pedro’s motion without an objection.
Like Achurra, Fale openly asked the public for forgiveness for not speaking out against De Pedro’s motion.
Fale is the youngest member of the 14-member provincial board; she is the federation president of the Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) of South Cotabato.
“Nagpasalamat kita nga nahayagan ilang hunahuna (We are thankful that they were enlightened),” Pamplona said.
Pamplona said there were three other provincial board members – Ester Marin Catorce, Ellen Grace Subere Albios, and Jinky Avance – who were opposed to the amendment.
Catorce was unable to join the May 16 session because she was the acting governor at that time while Albios and Avance were absent.
Pamplona said groups opposed to allowing open-pit mining in the province hoped that more provincial board members would join them in opposing the move to ensure that the legislature would not override Tamayo’s veto.
Those who remain in favor of lifting the ban are Vice Governor Vicente de Jesus, provincial board members De Pedro, Edgardo Sambog, Antonio Matti, Henry Ladot, Dardanilo Dar, Glezel Mariano-Trabado, Rolando Malabuyoc, and Antonio Fungan.
In a statement, ATM said recent developments in the province were “important reminders for everyone to be enlightened about our obligations to take care of the environment as this is closely intertwined with the enjoyment of our human rights.”
Catholic Bishop Cerilo Casiscas of the Marbel diocese said, “I hope people see the hand of God at work. I hope we see that this is a blessing, that we are not forsaken.”
The lifting of the ban is seen to allow the multinational Sagittarius Mines Incorporated (SMI) to tap one of the world’s largest undeveloped copper and gold deposits in Tampakan, South Cotabato, a project put on hold because of the province’s 2010 environment code. – Rappler.com