MANILA, Dec. 9, 2010â€”Anti-mining advocates are reacting to a memorandum issued by Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Jesse Robredo ordering South Cotabato Governor Arthur Pingoy to suspend the implementation of the Provincial Environment Code that bans open-pit mining.
Robredo has issued the memorandum for Gov. Pingoy and the Sangguniang Panlalawigan asking for a review of the code and make the necessary amendments as needed. He also ordered â€œthe immediate suspension of the implementation of said ordinance pending its review.â€
Jaybee Garganera, national coordinator of Alyansa Tigil Mina, said Robredoâ€™s memo is â€œundermining the local autonomy of local governments, and puts at risk the ecological integrity of South Cotabato.â€
â€œIt appears this government is just like the Arroyo regime, that, despite the peopleâ€™s call to stop destructive mining, [it is determined to go on],â€ Garganera said.
Judy Pasimio, executive director of Legal Rights and Natural Resources Center (LRC-KsK/FOE Phils) also expressed alarm that Robredo who is said to champion the autonomy of LGUs is curtailing the prerogative of the provincial governor of South Cotabato in his position to protect the environment from the adverse impacts of large scale mining.
â€œWhy is Robredo ordering the suspension of the ban on open pit mining? Is it now unconstitutional under the Aquino government for a local government to fulfill its function of putting its constituentsâ€™ interests first over profit?â€ Pasimio asked.
Garganera lamented that Robredoâ€™s power to issue a memorandum is being exploited to allow the destructive means of mining to continue.
â€œIt is unfortunate that Sec. Robredo and his power to issue a memorandum, is being used to allow the practice of a very destructive means of mining such as open-pit mining, on the grounds that it is not in accordance with the Philippine Mining Act. Now, how do we reconcile this with the power of the local government to protect its province and assert it autonomy?â€ he asked.
It is said that the Tampakan mining project would contribute around $40 billion to Philippine economy at the end of its mine life in 20 years.
But the Church and the local community have consistently opposed the mining project because of its impact on the environment and peopleâ€™s health and livelihood.
The local government drafted an Environment Code which took almost five years to make, prohibiting open-pit mining. It was approved by the provincial council and affirmed by then Governor Daisy Fuentes in July 2010.
Newly-elected South Cotabato Governor Arthur Pingoy implemented the code when he assumed office. (CBCPNews)