MANILA, March 13, 2014—President Benigno Aquino III lauded Cardinal Orlando Quevedo as protector of the poor but will he listen to the prelate’s appeal to stop the $5.9 billion Tampakan mining project?
This time, after their previous appeals fell on deaf ears, church leaders in Mindanao reiterated their plea to stop the gold and copper mining project in South Cotabato by writing a letter to Aquino.
Led by Quevedo, the Archbishop of Cotabato, the letter, praying for Aquino’s “God-enlightened decision”, was signed by 20 other archbishops and bishops.
Although it can significantly contribute to the economy, the bishops said the project by global miner Xstrata Plc’s Philippines unit 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 the letter read.
Operated by Sagittarius Mines Inc., the project 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.
Despite appeals by various sectors to halt the project, the government issued an environmental compliance certificate to Sagittarius, a unit of Xstrata, in February last year.
Bishop Dinualdo Gutierrez of Marbel, which 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.
The church leaders stressed that their opposition against the project is based on “moral grounds”.
They cited 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 right”
- “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”
The bishops added: “Up to now SMI has not given any proof that open pit mining preserves the integrity of God’s creation”.
Aside from Quevedo and Gutierrez, other signatories of the letter include 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.
Davao Archbishop Emeritus Fernando Capalla, Bishops Jose Manguiran 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 also signed the letter.
Aquino just met with the Catholic community in Mindanao last Tuesday when he attended the thanksgiving mass for the 75th birthday and 50th ordination anniversary of Quevedo in Cotabato City.
The President lauded the first cardinal from Mindanao for his peace-building efforts, adding that Quevedo’s examples are worth emulating. (CBCPNews)