The influential Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) recently called on President Benigno Aquino III to review all “anomalous and controversial” mining contracts and make public all existing mining applications and contracts.
In a statement signed by CBCP president and Tandag Bishop Nerio Odchimar and sent to MindaNews over the weekend, the CBCP also called for the repeal of the Mining Act of 1995.
“We cannot move forward if we fail to rectify previous contentious contracts the state has entered into with mining investors,” Odchimar said in explaining the call for review.
The statement added that the “people and NGOs are not able to scrutinize the applications and contracts because these are kept from the public. We are expecting this new government to turn away from the policy of secrecy that characterized the previous administration.”
It said the government must observe transparency and sincerity “in heeding the voice of the people who are the true beneficiaries and stakeholders of the country’s resources.”
In calling for the repeal of the Mining Act, the CBCP said the law does not adequately protect the interest of our people and the country’s natural resources.
It said former President Arroyo made the law “more harmful” when she issued Executive Order 270-A, or the National Policy Agenda on Revitalizing Mining in the Philippines, in 2004.
Odchimar further noted that the national government tends to ignore moves by local government units to pass a moratorium on mining operations.
He also urged the President to impose disciplinary measures on local officials of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources who allegedly prevent objections of the stakeholders [to mining operations] from reaching the attention of the national office.
The CBCP statement came in the wake of Aquino’s pronouncement he would forge a “win-win” solution to the controversy generated by the recent approval of the Provincial Environment Code of South Cotabato that bans the open pit mining method.
Tampakan town in South Cotabato hosts a major copper-gold project of Australian-backed Sagittarius Mines Inc. H. Marcos C. Mordeno/MindaNews