Cardinal Quevedo, Mindanao Bishops appeal to President Aquino to stop multi-billion tampakan mining project

March 15, 2014 8:35 am 

By Ferdinand G. Patinio

MANILA, March 14 (PNA) — Mindanao bishops led by Cotabato Archbishop Orlando Cardinal Quevedo reiterated their appeal to President Benigno Aquino III to stop the US$ 5.9 billion Tampakan mining project in South Cotabato.

In a letter to the Chief Executive, the 20 Catholic prelates ardently prayed for Aquino’s “God-enlightened decision”.

The church leaders noted that their opposition against the project is based on “moral grounds,” citing the following reasons:

• “the destruction of almost 4,000 hectares of forested and agricultural land and biodiversity is against the integrity of God’s creation”

• “the dislocation of almost 6,000 surface dwellers, mostly B’laans, from their ancestral land is against human rights”

• “the threat to food security and human life through the use of cyanide and heavy metals for processing ores is very real”

• “the past killings and future violence as the B’laans will defend their ancestral land – source of food, building material, burial grounds of their ancestors and place of living will adversely affect peace and harmony”

“Up to now SMI has not given any proof that open pit mining preserves the integrity of God’s creation,” they added.

Although, the bishops noted that the project by global miner, Xstrats Plc’s could contribute to the economy, the gold mining activities will harm the local community and destroy the environment.

“The cost, Mr. President, will far outweigh the benefits to government and the Filipino people,” part of the letter read.

The project, which is operated by Sagittarius Mines Inc., will explore 13.5 million metric tons of copper and 15.8 million ounces of gold, which can provide P134 billion to the Philippine economy each year.

In February 2013, the government issued an environmental compliance certificate to Sagittarius, a unit of Xstrata, despite appeals by various sectors to halt the project.

On the other hand, Marbel Bishop Dinualdo Gutierrez, who has jurisdiction over South Cotabato, lamented that Aquino ignored the petition of more than 100,000 people calling for the scrapping of the mining project.

Aside from Quevedo and Gutierrez, the other bishops that signed the letter are: Archbishops Romulo Valles of Davao, Antonio Ledesma of Cagayan de Oro, Bishops Guillermo Afable of Digos, Patricio Alo of Mati, Emmanuel Cabajar of Pagadian, Jose Cabantan of Malaybalay, Romulo de la Cruz of Kidapawan, Edwin de la Peña of Marawi, Elenito Galido of Iligan, Martin Jumoad of Basilan and Angelito Lampon of Jolo.

Other prelates who also signed the letter are: Davao Archbishop Emeritus Fernando Capalla, Bishops Jose Maguiuran of Dipolog, Wilfredo Manlapaz of Tagum, Nereo Odchimar of Tandag, Juan de Dios Pueblos of Butuan, Julius Tonel of Ipil, Cotabato Auxiliary Bishop Jose Collin Bagaforo and Davao Auxiliary Bishop George Rimando.

Last Tuesday, Aquino met with the Catholic community in Mindanao during the thanksgiving mass for the 75th birthday and 50th ordination anniversary of the Cardinal in Cotabato City.

The President lauded the first cardinal from Mindanao for his peace-building efforts, adding that Quevedo’s examples are worth emulating. (PNA)

CTB/FGP/RSM

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