Philippine Bishops want mining project stopped

7th April 2014 - by Ellen Teague

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Catholic Church officials in the southern Philippine island of Mindanao have reiterated their plea to the government to stop the mining of gold and copper in South Cotabato.

Columban JPIC has long supported the campaigning of the Philippines Church against destructive large-scale mining.

Bishops, led by new Cardinal and Cotabato Archbishop Orlando Quevedo, wrote a letter to President Benigno Aquino III two weeks ago asking for a “God-enlightened decision” on the matter, and their letter appears on the website of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines. “The cost, Mr President, will far outweigh the benefits to government and the Filipino people,” said the letter signed by 20 other Catholic bishops and archbishops.

The bishops pointed out that the $5.9 billion Tampakan mining project by global miner Xstrata Plc’s Philippines unit is likely to harm the local community and environment. It added the government issued an environmental compliance certificate to Sagittarius, a unit of Xstrata, in February 2013, despite appeals by various sectors to halt the project. Marbel Bishop Dinualdo Gutierrez commented that President Aquino ignored the petition of more than 100,000 people to scrap the mining project. The church leaders stressed their opposition against the project is based on “moral grounds,” as well as noting that the destruction of almost 4,000 hectares of forested and agricultural land and biodiversity is, in their view, against the integrity of God’s creation. They added that the project will dislocate almost 6,000 people, mostly B’laan tribal people, from their ancestral land.

The bishops support a campaign calling on the Philippine government to rescind the Mining Act of 1995 as it claimed the law brings more disasters than benefits, permitting foreign companies to own Philippine minerals. They want more emphasis placed on protecting the environment and the local communities over the desire of large-scale mining companies to rake in profits.