Protests marked Earth Day commemoration in Mindanao

Widespread protests marked the commemoration of Earth Day in various parts of Mindanao as different groups called for a stop to operations of mining and fuel power plants in the southern region.

The protests, organized by member organizations of SoCSKSARGEN Climate Action Now (CAN), said the continued operation of mining and coal-fire power plants are threatening people’s lives, livelihood and the environment.

Some 1,700 protesters marched around the town center of Tampakan in South Cotabato to demand the pull-out of XSTRATA-Sagitarius Mines Incorporated in the province.

“We have to protect the lifelines of the communities in Tampakan and other areas otherwise our dignity as human beings will be lost eventually,” said Fr. Gillarme Joy Pelino, Vicar of Tampakan Parish, who joined the rally.

Gillarme added: “The people’s struggle against XSTRATA-SMI’s copper-cold project will continue to groundswell and we see more communities and organizations joining our ranks in the months to come.”

“More than 40,000 hectares of rice fields in South Cotabato and Davao del Sur provinces will be affected the XSTRATA-SMI’s mining project. We, the irrigators, have decided to join the campaign because we fear that we will end up with no food to provide for our children,” Ireneo Felizilda, President of Tampakan Irrigators Association, said.

The irrigators and other grassroots organizations joined the church initiated Save SOCSARGEN Movement, a local alliance that vowed to oppose the mining project and other extractive industries and to campaign for climate justice.

Indigenous peoples groups also joined the protests. Daguil Capion, a B’laan tribe leader residing inside the mine development area, said: “The mining project has already divided our people. They’re not even respecting our right to a genuine consent by withholding important information.”

The protesters also signed a declaration against the Tampakan Copper Gold Project of XSTRATA-SMI and for a new mining law written.

Fr. Romeo Catedral, Social Action Center director of the Diocese of Marbel, lauded the local church initiative saying that “the Diocese of Marbel has always been consistent with its stand against XSTRATA-SMI’s mining project”.

“We say that the government has not been responsive to the issue of global warming and climate change. It continues to allow large-scale mining and other extractive activities which will only lead to the irreversible loss of biodiversity and worse, destroy the future of the communities,” Catedral said,adding that they are pushing instead for the passage of the Alternative Mining Bill to replace the present mining law.

The protesters also held a caravan in Koronadal City where they held a rally in front of the regional office of the Mines and Geo-sciences Bureau.

In Maasim town in Saranggani province, at least 300 protesters picketed in front of the proposed Alcantara owned 200MW coal plant site in Sitio Tampuan to dramatize their vehement opposition to the project.

Led by Maasim Peoples Coalition on Climate Change, the group marched with their placards from a nearby beach resort towards the plant site before holding a program where leaders took turns in lambasting the project.

“The construction of the Coal Fired Power Plant is an act of the demon and never will it follow the will of God to make the people live in the fullness of His creation” said Pastor Roel Ubatay, a minister of a small B’laan protestant community, during the picket.

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