Bishops seek protection of 2 Mindanao mountain ranges


GENERAL SANTOS CITY, Philippines—Three Roman Catholic bishops in Mindanao have joined forces in seeking national government protection of two mountain ranges that straddle central and southern Mindanao from mining, logging and other environmentally destructive activities, a spokesman said.

“Our advocacy is no longer confined or limited to opposing mining and other environmentally destructive undertakings. We will do something to protect the environment,” said the Rev. Joy Pelino, social action director of the Diocese of Marbel.

Pelino said Bishops Dinualdo Gutierrez of Marbel, Romulo Valles of Kidapawan and Guillermo Afable of Digos will be going to Manila next week to ask President Benigno Aquino to declare the Quezon and Daguma mountain ranges as protected areas.

The prelates, he said, will also present to the President a manifesto signed by 100,000 individuals against the planned open-pit mine operation of the Xstrata-backed Sagittarius Mines, Inc. (SMI).

“The 100,000 signatures were already prepared. We are just waiting for the letters from the three dioceses addressed to Malacañang,” Pelino said.

He said the declaration of the Daguma and Quezon mountain ranges as protected areas was vital in the protection and preservation of the remaining forests to sustain agriculture in the south-central Mindanao area.

The Daguma mountain range, which straddles the provinces of South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat and part of Maguindanao, is the main source of  the Allah River, a major source of water for irrigation in these provinces.

Several mining firms, mainly engaged in coal exploration, operate in the Daguma mountains.

The Quezon mountain range on the other hand plays host to SMI and straddles South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Sarangani and Davao Del Sur.

It is the location of the headwaters of four major rivers as well as the Liguasan Marsh and Buluan Lake.

“Once these areas are declared protected areas, mining companies could no longer operate,” Pelino said.

Meanwhile, the Sangguniang Panlalawigan of South Cotabato said the provincial environment code, which outlaws open-pit mining, remains in force and will not be amended.

South Cotabato board member Ernesto Catedral, chair of the environment committee, told reporters that a review would  be done only if the courts declare the ordinance flawed.

No one has questioned in court the legality of South Cotabato’s provincial environment code, he said.

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  • Anonymous

    Ideology is a destructive force whenever it falls into the pit of absolutism. In the Church, we have Bishops who have fallen into this pit of ideological absolutism vis-a-vis the environment. Instead focusing on an in depth study on how to mitigate open pit mining in order to exploit the minerals for the benefit of the povertry stricken areas of Tampakan, they choose to blindly oppose it. And who misses the development potential of this economic activity? The poor Filipinos living in these areas. Of course we recognize that Mindanao’s timber were exploited to perdition by greedy national government, greedy politicians,and coniving local leaders without any benefit to the local population. But that should be reason to be very careful rather than a reason for absolutist positions vis-a-vis environmental issues. I am sure those 100,000 people who signed this document are not fully educated on the issues.

    • Bong

      save our mountain and save the soul of rolandtr…

      • Anonymous

        A century ago, Europe’s environment was in desolition. The mountains were denuded and intermittent wars has destroyed its terrain. Today, Europe has beautiful mountains and its environments are so well protected. Likewise the environment of Tampakan can be rejuvinated after a mining operation. Mountains can be reborn! Meantime, the poor needs Billions of Pesos for health, education, and basic infrastructure. This can be accelerated by the proceeds of mining our minerals in Mindanao. The key is the public must be very vigilant and “mulat” to the mitigating actions of the minng companies. Malaysia’s mining sites are now beautiful gardens. And the people around these sites have benefited so much – they are able to send their children to higher universities, including to top universities abroad! There are two types of threat to society: the exploiter who will mindlessly exploit the people and the blind ideologue who will mindlessly opposed anything because he refuses to  learn that outside of his ideology there can be something benefitial for his people. Do not save my soul Bong! Save the poor of Mindanao who wants to beg from the national government everything even if they are seating on top of mulit Billion Peso resource.

  • Anonymous

    save the mountain. we need our rebels something to hide with.

  • Bong

    save our mountains and protect it from the miners….

  • Anonymous

    I used to believed in SMI mining project before because they are one the largest mining corporations and most admired in the world and they are manned with highly equipt and well trained professionals in their owned field of expertise, etc. And also my friend is previously connected in SMI holding a managerial position (w/ excellent salary package,etc.) until she resigned last year for a conflict reason with his boss. SMI made a lot of educational campaign about their mining project in Tampakan that can be seen whole year round in big Malls here in Gensan and other key areas. BUT upon reading in Inquirer and researching the real project that they will undertake, such as a hole of 800 meters deep covering 500 hectares wide and afftecting 3,935 hectares, more or less of mining explorations is very alarming for us here affected cities and municipalities. And based on their plans I DON’T see any concrete measures or plans on how to restore back this affected soil, trees and ecosystem they have destroyed.

    Yes we may gain Billion of Revenues out of this guaranteed explorations (gold & copper) but in the long run our environment will be destroyed which can no longer be restored. The CATHOLIC CHURCH & our PRIESTS AND BISHOPS  ARE RIGHT on their stand and the people of South Cotabato, Digos del Sur and especially General Santos City which is the catch basin should unite and prevent these things to happen.

    • Anonymous

      Go visit the tin mining site of Malaysia. It now has a nice lake running through it. Andhas become the  new government capital of Malaysia. It is called Putra Jaya. Look for the old pictures of this mining site and you will see it was so desolate also. Do not be blinded that this cannot be mitigated. The truth is it can be as it has been done in so many countries! 500 hectartes of 800 meters deep? Imagine a sunken city the size of the University of the Philppines Diliman Campus (that will be its approximate size) with trees and lakes and nice building. That is not a bad idea. Just open your minds to so many possiblities

  • bibingkang abnoy

    There is a complicated dilemma here. Ore resources from mining are needed to power manufacturing plants that produce the raw materials needed for infrastructure and equipment, which in turn are needed by secondary manufacturing firms that produce food, clothing and other industries. In short, mining is essential for the continuous maintenance and development of a economy. But on the other side of the coin, mining is the main antagonist when it comes to the protection and preservation of our natural resources and habitat. So there is no win-win solution to this problem; it’s a lose-win or win-lose situation. I think one way to solve this problem is to develop new strategies in mining that would minimize or if possible prevent the destruction of natural habitat. Because think about this, what if those mountains contain a very large deposit of oil, natural gas, or gold and iron for example? That would be a great lose if we will not exploit it. But then, it would mean its destruction. Current technology does not give hope to such win-win solution. And since that is the case, the two sides should device a way on how each one will handle the situation. As much as possible, do not settle to the lose-win or win-lose options. Study carefully the situation, and bring the most plausible solution to a near win-win one. 

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