Like rats that feed on crops when no one is around, the Provincial Board of Cotabato approved the resolution which effectively lifts the ban on Open-Pit Mining in the province last Monday, 16 May 2022. In effect, this move is a rubber stamp act that intends to green-light the operations of SMI’s Tamapakan Gold and Copper project. Conveniently timed a week after the election to repeal any disastrous consequences their actions may bring to their electoral campaigns.
We, farmers, are beyond dismayed at how disrespectful and unjust the approval was to the collective will of the people of South Cotabato. Despite the massive public clamor against the project, we are aghast that a project which has the potential to alter the lives of the people of South Cotabato was decided in a matter of minutes, without thorough discussion, dissenting opinions, and even a rundown of the major arguments raised by the public during the series of public consultations a few months back. Perhaps this move was a perfect metaphor for the destructive intentions of lifting the ban – it takes minutes to cut a tree but decades to grow it.
We organic farmers reiterate our call. We firmly stand with the truth that large-scale mining and agriculture can never coexist harmoniously. Responsible mining is nothing but an illusion and propaganda of the large-scale mining industry sector in the country. Organic Farming that is anchored in the principle of self-reliance remains to be a reliable alternative and a way to sustainable development. Also, the continued operation of the said mining will further erode the ecological diversity in the region which will cause more catastrophic activities delivered by corporate negligence and climate change. Thus, corporations must stop any mining activities and take responsibility for the ecological damage in South Cotabato.
The lifting of the ban will turn the whole of South Cotabato into one of the Country’s ‘mining capital’ which will destroy the mountains until mineral deposits are exhausted in the province and in adjacent provinces. This will lead to the wide destruction of wildlife areas, biodiversity, and watersheds particularly the Altayan – Taplan River System in the Quezon Mountain Range where the Tampakan Copper-Gold Project of SMI is located and the Daguma Mountain. The range where the 4 coal mining projects are placed. These areas are home to diverse flora and fauna, upland agriculture, and the source of clean water for irrigation and domestic use.
We are not convinced by the argument that mining operations will lead to economic recovery. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, the economy is already failing. The neo-liberal policies in agriculture like Rice Tariffication Law, Agriculture, and Fisheries Modernization Act, and Train Law contributed to this. If the amendment in the environmental code is pushed through, it will only add to the burden of the farmers and indigenous peoples already affected by these policies.
We will continue to stand in solidarity with the church and every South Cotabateno in this campaign. We urge Gov. Tamayo, after receiving a fresh mandate as provincial governor of South Cotabato, who during the campaign presented himself as against Open-Pit mining to make good on his word. We urge him to veto the ordinance if he so wishes to carry the aspirations of the people.
If the collective will of more than 79,000 signatures was not thunderous enough, he should expect a storm at the start of this term. This is not a warning but a promise. He should know, that we farmers are perfectly adept, be it under the heat of the sun or strong rains if it means protecting the ecosystems on which our livelihood depends on.
Ignacio Sulit, Farmer Leader
Masipag South Cotabato
Masipag Farmers position on the proposed amendments to the South Cotabato Environmental Code
Lupa, Buhay, Kinabukasan Tana, Klowil, Buwas damlag https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=VLFFbBIRbvM