Environmental activist group Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment reported on Saturday, May 21, that it received reports that tree cutting operations are expected to commence soon at the 10,000-hectare Tampakan mine project area despite the local open-pit mine ban still in effect.
“We urge public authorities to immediately hold and investigate the imminent cutting of up to 900 trees at the Tampakan mine area,” read a statement from the group’s national coordinator, Leon Dulce.
“We fear that these ‘eager beavers’ aim to clear so many old-growth trees is part and parcel of the development activities of Sagitarius Mines Inc. (SMI) for their open-pit mine project,” said Dulce.
He said that any activity to develop the mine site “should still be prohibited while South Cotabato’s open-pit mine ban is still in place.”
Kalikasan PNE said local sources relayed that operations aim to start cutting about 100 trees are being planned and up to more than 900 trees over a 90-hectare area over the following days.
This development came on the heels of the controversial provincial ordinance passed by the South Cotabato local government attempting to lift the ban on open-pit mines within the provincial environmental code.
The ban remains in effect while the regulation remains unreceived by the office of South Cotabato governor Reynaldo Tamayo Jr.
The governor has earlier admitted that he knew of the imminent tree cutting, but claimed his hands were tied because the permit issued was from the national office and out of his jurisdiction.
“We call on the people of South Cotabato to be ready to take constitutionally-guaranteed citizen action against the tree cutting operations of the Tampakan mine,” said Dulce.
“We must prevent the further degradation of our watersheds that provide sustainable livelihood and resilience to disasters,” he added.