KORONADAL CITY (MindaNews/ 23 February)— “A plot hatched in hell.”
This was how the National Democratic Front of the Philippines-Far South Mindanao Region (NDFP-FSMR) described Friday the national government’s granting of an environmental compliance certificate (ECC) to foreign-backed Sagittarius Mines, Inc. for its Tampakan copper-gold project.
In an emailed statement, Ka Efren, NDFP-FMSR spokesperson, warned the mining firm to brace for attacks not just from the communist rebels but also from the B’laan tribal members opposing the mining venture.
“The revolutionary forces in Far South Mindanao are resolutely embracing their utmost task to lead and be one with the people in the struggle against foreign and large-scale mining and all forms of state-backed anti-people, anti-national and environmentally destructive programs and projects,” he said.
“Moreover, the B’laan people’s armed resistance in Bong Mal is virtuously in a position to defend their ancestral land and right to self-determination,” according to the statement.
On New Year’s Day 2008, communist New People’s Army (NPA) rebels stormed the base camp of SMI in Barangay Tablu in Tampakan, South Cotabato, burning equipment and facilities worth at least P12 million.
The following year, communist guerillas attacked the Tampakan municipal police station in punishment “for protecting the interest of the mining company.” Three policemen and a civilian were wounded in the raid.
In the company’s various Project Sustainability Reports, it admitted security threats as one of the key risks facing the Tampakan project.
Ka Efren said the issuance of the ECC by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to SMI is a “barefaced and traitorous act that President Benigno Aquino is inexcusably accountable for.”
“The approval of the ECC takes place when Mindanao still has to recover from the ruins of super storms Sendong and Pablo, and concurrent with the mine landslides in Semirara, Antique. This is a manifestation of the government’s disregard for the environment and public welfare,” he noted.
SMI is controlled by Xtrata Copper, the world’s fourth largest copper producer, with Australian firm Indophil Resources NL as the junior partner.
In a February 20 statement, Gavan Collery, Indophil corporate affairs manager, said that SMI advised Indophil that it has received the proposed ECC from the Environmental Management Bureau, a DENR attached agency.
“SMI says it is now in the process of reviewing the terms and conditions contained in the document,” Collery said.
Manolo Labor, SMI external communications and media relations superintendent, also earlier referred to the document as “a proposed ECC,” claiming that the “company has to agree with the government the conditions set therein.”
Indophil said it sees the latest development as a critical step towards acceptance of related conditions, leading to formal approval and agreement for the ECC.
“The granting of the ECC will be an important milestone that will allow project partners to commence programs associated with other key approvals and regulatory requirements,” Collery said. (Bong S. Sarmiento/MindaNews)