Mining looms as poll issue in South Cotabato
GENERAL SANTOS CITY—One of the world’s biggest mining projects is looming large as an election issue in South Cotabato, where candidates are being measured according to where they stand on the $5.9 billion stalled mining project in Tampakan town.
Shortly after filing their certificates of candidacy, candidates have been branded as either anti or pro mining, which could affect the way they handle their campaigns.
The stalled project, by multinational mining firm Xstrata and being handled by Sagittarius Mines Inc. (SMI) in Tampakan, is supposed to sit on at least 13.5 million metric tons of copper and 15.8 million ounces of gold in an area described as one of the most mineral resources-rich in the world.
SMI has boasted that the project would contribute at least P134 billion to the Philippine economy every year during the life span of the mines.
Opposition from South Cotabato officials, particularly those rejecting the open-pit mining method, is keeping the project from taking off although national agencies had given it the permits required by law.
Rogelio Pacquiao, younger brother of world boxing champion Manny Pacquiao, has taken a stand for responsible mining. He is running for congressman of South Cotabato’s first district against Pedro Acharon Jr., who is running for reelection and is among several officials of the province who have been opposing the Tampakan mining project.
“I am not totally against mining as long as it follows what is required by law,” Rogelio has said.
“The open-pit mine is around 500-hectare wide and about 800-meter deep,” said Acharon. “I doubt if the company could guarantee the safety of the environment and the people,” he said.
Manny has changed his tune on mining. “I’m no longer a dyed-in-the-wool antimining advocate,” the boxer told the Inquirer recently. “I am now for responsible mining,” he said.
A candidate of Manny’s party for mayor in Tampakan, reelectionist Mayor Leonardo Escobillo, supports the Tampakan project.
In some cases, the line dividing those who are against and for mining is still not clear.
South Cotabto Gov. Arthur Pingoy supports the ban on open-pit mining but supports the candidacy of Rogelio Pacquiao.
Antimining Acharon supports the candidacy of Daisy Fuentes under whose term the open-pit mining ban passed. Aquiles Z. Zonio, Inquirer Mindanao