Lifting mining moratorium ‘short-sighted,’ says South Cotabato bishop
KORONADAL CITY—The head of the Catholic Church in South Cotabato, where Southeast Asia’s largest known copper and gold reserve was located, assailed as “short-sighted” the decision of President Rodrigo Duterte to lift a moratorium on mining to help revive the economy.
Marbel Bishop Cerilo Casicas said Duterte’s Executive Order No. 130 weighed heavy on economic reasons but was short on concern for the environment.
“This is a short-sighted solution,” Casicas said.
“A healthy Earth is not an option, it is a necessity,” he said at a press conference to mark Earth Day on Thursday (April 22).
EO No. 130 lifted the nine-year ban on new mining contracts in the government’s bid to generate revenue to keep the Philippine economy from sinking as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Marbel diocese is a staunch opponent of the Tampakan copper and gold project which planned to use open-pit method to extract an estimated 15 million tons of copper and 498 million grams of gold buried near the earth surface.
The project was estimated to generate $5.9 billion in mining revenue if fully operational.
EO No. 130, Casicas said, could expose other ecologically fragile areas of the country to environmental threats.
“To be sure, there have been a plethora of studies about the ill impacts of open-pit mining on people’s health and the environment, which far outweigh whatever economic benefits open-pit mining claims to provide,” Casicas said at his press conference.
Lawyer Noel Ben, director of the Notre Dame of Marbel University’s Legal Aide and Community Extension Services, said Duterte’s EO No. 130 can be challenged in court.
While the President has the power to issue executive orders, this can be challenged in court if it ran counter to public welfare, said Ben, also representative of the civil society group NDMU Marist Hope Center for Justice and Good Governance.
Challenging EO No. 130 is a bold step that will require consultations with various stakeholders in the Marbel diocese, said Ben.
He said his group would carefully study this option and make the next move public.
According to Ben, EO No. 130 focused largely on the economy and not the environment when there was a need to strike a balance between the two.
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