Church, green groups score victory against mining in southern Philippines

September 18, 2022

Church and pro-environment groups scored a victory against destructive extraction in the southern Philippines this week after the local government of Tampakan town in Mindanao revoked the permit to operate of a big mining company.

“The brave stance of the local government to revoke the permit of Sagittarius Mines, Inc. to do business in Tampakan is a win not only of the people of Mindanao, of the rights of nature, but also of accountability in governance,” said Father Antonio Labiao Jr., executive secretary of Caritas Philippines.

On Thursday, September 15, Mayor Leonard Escobillo of Tampakan, revoked the permit of SMI due to alleged “fraud and misrepresentation.”

The mayor said the “description of the business on the undertaking that is to be conducted was falsely stated.”

“As per Mayor’s Permit, the Company is a Mineral Exploration Manufacturer contrary to the assessment of the Municipal Treasury Office that they are not operating as (a) manufacturer but as a general engineering contractor,” said Escobillo in a statement.

SMI, operator of the US$5.9-billion Tampakan project in South Cotabato province, earlier filed a petition for review and temporary restraining order against the local government of Tampakan for demanding tax dues worth PhP397 million from the company.

Escobillo earlier ordered the municipal treasurer to reevaluate the taxes paid by all business establishments operating in the town.

The assessment made by the local treasurer found SMI to have deficiencies for business tax covering the years 2020 to 2022 and mayor’s permit fees and other regulatory fees from 2013 to 2022.

The Tampakan project has been touted the largest undeveloped copper-gold minefield in Southeast Asia and among the largest of its kind in the world.

Based on a company study, the project has the potential to yield an average of 375,000 tons of copper and 360,000 ounces of gold in concentrate per year in the 17-year life of the mine.

Father Jerome Millan, social action director of the Diocese of Marbel, said the revocation of SMI’s permit is a step forward in stopping the mining company’s operation in the area.

Anti-mining activists claimed that the mining project will displace more than 1,000 tribal families in four provinces in Mindanao.

Yolanda Esguerra of the Philippine Misereor Partnership, Inc. said Escobillo’s decision is “an example for other local governments” of their power to exercise their authority under the law.

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