ZAMBOANGA CITY: The National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) on Wednesday called for an absolute end to destructive mining as it commended Environment Secretary Regina Lopez for her firm stand against open-pit mining in southern Mindanao.
Efren Aksasato, spokesman for the NDFP in Mindanao, said Lopez even stood against the giant Tampakan copper-gold project in South Cotabato province.
He noted that Lopez’s announcement to stop mining operations in Tampakan is consistent with the people’s stand in objecting to the “disastrous” open-pit mining project.
“DENR (Department of Environment and Natural Resources) Secretary Regina Lopez is commendable for her remarkably firm stand against open-pit mining in the country, as well as her decisive asseveration of the Duterte administration’s disapproval of the controversial and environmentally destructive $5.9-billion Tampakan copper-gold project in South Cotabato,” Aksasato said.
He cited numerous reports of alleged human rights violations raised by indigenous peoples in South Cotabato, especially within their ancestral domain, and accused government soldiers and paramilitary forces as behind these.
Aksasato said the open-pit mining in South Cotabato approved by the Aquino administration also violated the provincial environment code, which prohibits such mining practice because of the hazards it poses to the environment and safety of the people.
He added that the previous administration approved on February 2013 the Environment Compliance Certificate of Xstrata-SMI, operator of Tampakan gold mine project, despite massive protests from environmentalists and natives in the province.
Aside from South Cotabato, open-pit mining was also reported in Zamboanga Peninsula where Canadian miner TVI Resource Development Inc. previously operated inside the Subanen’s ancestral domain at Mount Canatuan in Siocon town, Zamboanga del Norte.
The company is now operating a gold mine in the mountains of Balabag at Bayog town in Zamboanga del Sur.
Aksasato said the communist New People’s Army (NPA) will continue to protect the indigenous peoples and their ancestral domain against destructive and large-scale mining activities in the South.