Thursday, August 5, 2010

South Cotabato caught in between economic progess versus provincial enviromental code

It seems that the dream for economic boom of Mayor Leonardo Escobillo for his municipality in Tampakan, South Cotabato will be washed away by a brewing allegation of violating Mining Act of 1995, an environmental code that links to open pit mining activity. With the projected US$6 Billion investment Sagittarius Mines, Inc. (SMI) for the Tampakan Copper-Gold Project (TCGP), it will assure employment to more that 9, 000 residents in Tampakan and nearby places and will guarantee economic growth for the South Cotabato local government by 2015. This project will be possibly the biggest single investment for the country.

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For the information of the readers, open pit mining or also known as quarrying is process where stripping or removing surface vegetation, dirt and layers of bedrock to reach the buried deposits, and in the case of the Tampakan they will be mining for gold and copper. Which in this case in the Provincial Environment Code of South Cotabato created by its former board they are prohibiting the said process as stated; “Open-pit mining method shall not be allowed in the Province of South Cotabato” (Section 22 B) and will only allow open pit mining at least 1 kilometer away from their boundary (Sec 22 C).

The possible set back frustrates Escobillo but in the article published in the Philippine Star Governor of South Cotabato Arthur Pingoy will be reviewing the legalities of the implications of the project on both environment and economy. Pingoy will also be checking on the controversial Provincial Environmental Code that runs counter to the Republic Act 7942 or Mining Act of 1995 and the national policy on the Revitalizing the Philippine Mining Industry. In the article of Manila Bulletin posted last June 26 it was highlighted that Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) Region 12 director Constancio Paye Jr. that Provincial Board cannot specify which area in South Cotabato is prohibited from mining as stated in the Section 19 of RA 7942 which in this case the Congress has the position to do so. And the decision on whether the project will pushed through or not depends on the proposal that SMI will be submitting to the government. 

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It is clear that the environmental code posted by the former provincial board of South Cotabato contradicts to what was stated in the Mining Act of 1995 as mention by Paye that it is the Congress has the sole power to state particular land where mining is prohibited. Yes I support environmental policies on preservation and taking care of the environment but I also bear in mind the economic contribution it will give to Mindanao particularly in South Cotabato. It will be a big help to the families of the more than 9, 000 possible employees of the TCGP of the Sagittarius Mines, Inc. (SMI) and will be contributing to the education, and agricultural livelihood in favor of the South Cotabato local government. In order not to put to waste all the efforts and plans for Tampakan, SMI should present a clear plan as stated in the Mining Act of 1995 which includes the proper disposal of waste and the rehabilitation process which passes the requirements of the government environmental policies. In this case Tampakan will have the economic boom they wanted and at the same time with the proper implementation of environmental policies like Environmental Protection and Environmental Impact Assessment (RA 7942 Sec 69 & 70) environmental rehabilitation, regeneration and revegetation will be discuss to benefit the province’s ecosystem.

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