New Church tarps: Which candidates are pro-, anti-mining?

Edwin G. Espejo

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The Diocese of Marbel will be hanging tarpaulins showing which local candidates are supportive of or opposed to open pit mining in South Cotabato

JUST INFORMING. Marbel Bishop Dinualdo Gutierrez says the tarps will only say where the candidates stand on the issue. Photo by Edwin Espejo

GENERAL SANTOS CITY, Philippines –  The Catholic Church is expanding the war of tarpaulins – from the reproductive health (RH) issue, it’s now about mining interests.

The Diocese of Marbel in South Cotabato will be hanging tarpaulins when the campaign period for local posts starts on March 29, showing which local candidates are supportive of or opposed to open pit mining in the province.

Marbel Bishop Dinualdo Gutierrez told ABS-CBN TV Patrol Socsksargen on Tuesday, March 12, that the tarpaulins will soon hang at the entrances of parishes in the Diocese.

Gutierrez has been in the forefront in opposing the ongoing operations of Xstrata Plc-controlled Sagittarius Mines Inc (SMI), which acquired the Columbio Financial Technical Assistance Agreement for the Tampakan Copper and Gold Project from Western Mining Company (WMC).

The size and length of the tarpaulins should not matter, according to Bishop Gutierrez. But the bigger they are, the better, he said.

The tarpaulins in the Diocese of Bacolod – which campaign against pro-RH senatorial bets and endorse anti-RH bets – were ordered taken down by the elections commission because they violated prescribed sizes for campaign propaganda materials.

They have since gotten the Supreme Court to temporarily restrain the poll body from touching the posters.

No campaigning, just informing

The Marbel bishop, however, said they will not campaign for and against candidates whose names will be printed on the tarpaulins. They will just let the public know where the candidates stand on the issue that the local church here is very vocal against.

This early, Gutierrez has named several re-electionists who are against open pit mining in the province. These are South Cotabato Gov Arthur Pingoy and his opponent, Rep. Daisy Avance-Fuentes, who is seeking to regain her former post. 

The bishop did not mention where the third candidate for governor, former Koronadal Mayor Fernando Miguel, stand on the issue.

Both Pingoy and Fuentes have publicly stated that they will implement the Provincial Environment Code, which bans open-pit mining in South Cotabato.

The ordinance was signed by Avance-Fuentes in June 2010, just weeks before she stepped down as an undefeated 3-term governor of the province. She won as congresswoman over Hilario de Pedro III, who is now the provincial administrator of Pingoy.

Anti-mining, Church favored?

Pingoy and Fuentes have carefully avoided antagonizing the Catholic Church here, which is still very influential among the province’s largely rural voters.

Pingoy said he has no problem with the plan of Bishop Gutierrez.

“That is their right, provided they comply with the guidelines of the Comelec (Commission on Election),” Pingoy said in a text message after he was asked for his reaction.

There was no immediate reply to the same question from Fuentes.

The bishop likewise named Koronadal Mayor Peter Miguel, Sarangani Vice Gov. Steve Solon and Rep. Manny Pacquiao (Lone District, Sarangani province), as among those who are also against open pit mining.

Miguel and Pacquiao are seeking re-election, while Solon is running unopposed as governor in Sarangani.  

Gutierrez did not name the local officials and other candidates who are perceived to be pro-mining.

Forum with candidates

Fr. Rye Ondap, Justice and Peace coordinator of the Diocese of Marbel, said the bishop will call for a forum and will invite all candidates for various elective posts in the provinces and cities covered by their jurisdiction.

“As of now, we have not identified them (pro-mining candidates),” the priest said.

He said they will come up with the complete list of pro- and anti-mining candidates after the forum.

In Tampakan town of South Cotabato, however, the two candidates slugging it out one-on-one – incumbent mayor Leonardo Escobillo and come backing former Mayor Claudius Barroso – are known supporters of SMI.  –

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