A Catholic bishop in South Cotabato welcomed Friday the governor’s decision to veto a measure allowing open-pit mining in the province, but called on the public to remain vigilant.
Bishop Cerilo Casicas of the Marbel diocese said there is reason to celebrate but they aren’t letting their guards down.
“We remain vigilant until the present threat to amend the lifting of the open-pit mining ban is completely done,” Casicas said in a press conference.
“As we give a big sigh of relief, we are fully aware that the battle for environmental protection and against open-pit mining methods in South Cotabato is not over,” he said.
Gov. Reynaldo Tamayo Jr. issued the veto on June 3 “for being prejudicial to the public welfare and inimical to the overall interest of all South Cotabateños”.
The province’s lawmakers on May 16 amended a decade-old ordinance against open-cut mining, paving the way for the $5.9 billion Tampakan copper-gold project to start.
Tamayo said he could not find any reason why the officials would overturn a measure that protects the people “from the ill effects of the wanton destruction of our God-given resources by the multinational corporations”.
The veto also came two days after thousands of people took the streets of the province’s capital of Koronadal to protest the move.
The bishop then appealed to the legislators “not to override the veto” and not to allow themselves to be carried away by business and political pressures.
At one point of the press conference, the prelate went emotional when asked for his message to the public about what happened in their diocese over the last two weeks.
“I hope people see the hand of God at work,” Casicas said as his voice cracked. “I hope we see that this is a blessing, that we are not forsaken.”