Koronadal City â€“ Regional militant umbrella group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN-SOCSKSARGEN) today expressed support to three bishops that sought for the protection of two mountain ranges in southern and central Mindanao against large-scale mining operations and other environmentally destructive projects.
Earlier, Bishop Dinualdo Guttierez of the Diocese of Marbel, Bishop Romulo Valles of the Diocese of Kidapawan and Bishop Guillermo Afable of the Diocese of Digos have been reportedly taking effort to ask the national government to declare the Daguma and Quezonmountain ranges as protected areas.
â€œWe support the three bishops in their undertakings to protect our mineral-rich mountain ranges. We link arms with them and the entire church-people in the region who relentlessly oppose the large-scale mining operation of Xstrata-SMI and other environmentally destructive projectsâ€ said Ryan Lariba, secretary general of BAYAN-SOCSKSARGEN
The $840 billionTampakan Copper-Gold project of Xstrata-SMI is situated in the Quezonmountain range. It is touted to be one of the biggest mining ventures in the country and would be taking advantage of the regionsâ€™ minerals using open-pit method.
â€œMore than 50,000 hectares in the quadriboundary of South Cotabato, Sarangani Province,Sultan Kudarat and Davao del Sur has taken over by the company for its looming fully-operation in 2016. Its operation would surely destroy watersheds for the farmlands and rice fields in the provinces of South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Sarangani Province and Davao del Surâ€ Lariba said.
Citing data from National Irrigation Administration (NIA), BAYAN-SOCSKARGEN noted that in Davao del Sur alone at least 7, 421 farmers will be affected when Xtrata-SMI fully operates.
â€œEven the companyâ€™s Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) results showed that at least 870 families mostly from indigenous people would be displacedâ€ Lariba said further.
Aquino govâ€™t assailed
Meanwhile, the group assailed Aquino governmentâ€™s support to Xstrata-SMI Tampakan Copper-Gold project amid strong opposition from local communities, its looming effect and imminent danger to environment and the lives of indigenous people and farmers.
â€œAquino government has blatantly turned a deaf ear and blind eye despite broad opposition and continuing protests staged by local communities, various sectors, militants, church-people and even the communist New Peopleâ€™s Army against the companyâ€ Lariba stressed.
LAKBAYAN II, the fight continues against Xstrata-SMI
While the company is eyeing fully operation in 2016, on the other hand, BAYAN-SOCSKSARGEN vowed to stage more protests against the company in the coming weeks.
To sum up its one year campaign and protests against Xstrata-SMI, the group will stage again a long march from Digos City to Koronadal City on December 6-10 dubbed asâ€LAKBAYAN II: Tuloy ang laban! batok sa dinagkung pagmina ug pagpanglapas sa tawhanong katungodâ€ â€œLAKBAYAN II: The fight continues against large-scale mining and human rights violationsâ€
The 4-day march-caravan will commence on December 6 at Digos City and will advance in Malalag in Davao del Sur where the 400 Megawatt coal-fired power plant of the company would be put up.
Lakbyan will then proceed from Davao del Sur to General Santos City and eventually conclude in Koronadal City to urge the Local government of the province of South Cotabato to fully implement the Environmental Code and reiterate its call to ban and strongly oppose the most destructive project. It would be on December 10, to commemorate International Human Rights Day.
On December 10, the group will reiterate as well its demand for justice of the slain environmentalist Eliezer â€œBoyâ€ Billanes and anti-mining advocate Fr. Fausto â€œPopsâ€ Tentorio and other victims of human rights violations. Billanes a staunch critic of Xstrata-SMI who was gunned-down last March 9, 2009 in Koronadal City while Fr Pops, also a critical in large-scale mining, brutally killed last October 17 in Arakan, North Cotabato.
BAYAN stressed that militarization in the countryside intensified without letup since the Xstrata-Smi starts its operation. 27th IB, 37th IB and 73rd IB deployment is apparently for the security of the company. Task Force Kitaco(Kiblawan, Tampakan, Columbio) was also formed.
â€œThe company has colluded with the Aquino government and uses its arm might to suppress the individuals, progressives and even church people critical of the companyâ€™s operation. Under the brutal Oplan Bayanihan, the Armed Forces of the Philippines become the protector and private security guards of the company. Militarization in the mining areas intensified causes the indigenous people and farmers flee from their communitiesâ€ Lariba ended.