February 10, 2011
KORONADAL CITY — A review of the controversial South Cotabato environment code is still possible despite earlier statements that pro-mining groups failed to convince the provincial board to amend it, a board member said on Wednesday.
Jose M. Madanguit, vice-chairman of the boardâ€™s environmental protection committee, said in an interview that a review is possible if “there is something wrong, or there is something not practical” in the provisions of the code.
But this would have to take place after its full implementation, he said.
The environment ordinance bans open-pit mining, which Xstrata-controlled Sagittarius Mines, Inc. will use in its copper-gold project in Tampakan.
Touted as the countryâ€™s biggest mining venture should it go into commercial production in 2016, the $5.9-billion Tampakan Project involves about 2.4 billion tons of mineral ore estimated to contain 15.8 million ounces of gold and 13.5 million tons of copper.
“Letâ€™s put everything in place first and have the code implemented,” Mr. Madanguit said.
“Then, we can talk about revisiting and reviewing the code.”
Governor Arthur Y. Pingoy said last month that he would sign the implementing rules and regulations of the code after the Provincial Legal Office has approved its final draft.
A press statement from Sagittarius Mines published earlier this week quoted the governor as saying that he is waiting for an environmental impact study which the company plans to submit this quarter.
“Then we will know if the project can be safe or not,” the statement quoted Mr. Pingoy as saying.
The governor was out of town and could not be contacted for confirmation yesterday.
John B. Arnaldo, Sagittarius Minesâ€™ communications manager, said via e-mail that the company “will finalize its report and submit to the government after the environmental impact study public stakeholder consultation phase has been completed.”
Pro-mining Provincial Board Member Cecile E. Diel, a lawyer and head of the boardâ€™s legal committee during the passage of the code last year, said in a separate interview that, under Republic Act No. 7942, or the Philippine Mining Act of 1995, and the Financial and Technical Assistance Agreement of the company and the government, a contractor has the option to determine the most feasible mining method based on technical studies.
She also argued that the local government cannot pass an ordinance that will, in effect, amend a national law. Hence, she said, the looming ban here on open-pit mining is illegal since only Congress has the power to amend a national law.
Ms. Diel abstained during the voting for the passage of the code in June 2010.