Agency worries about agri in mine site-A A +A
Wednesday, June 20, 2012
GENERAL SANTOS CITY -- The Department of Agriculture (DA) expressed doubts over the Tampakan copper-gold project of foreign-backed Sagittarius Mines Inc., saying it should not be allowed to proceed if agricultural lands would be affected.
Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala said the agency wrote to Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) about the Tampakan project's possible impact to agriculture.
"If it (Tampakan project) will affect agricultural production, we are on the side of the farmers," Alcala told Sun.Star Davao.
Alcala was in Santo Nino, South Cotabato on Monday to lead the groundbreaking of a P24-million rice processing facility.
The agriculture department contends that prime agricultural lands across the country should not be affected by any mining projects, Alcala stressed, noting that the DENR has yet to reply to their letter.
Thousands of hectares of rice farms in the lowlands will likely be affected if the watershed sources in the mountains of Tampakan would not be protected from mining intrusion, various local groups in South Cotabato said.
In a resolution opposing the Tampakan project, the South Cotabato Irrigators Agricultural Farmers' Federation Inc. estimated that 4,293 hectares in several low-lying towns greatly depends on the Tampakan watershed.
According to their resolution, these farmlands produce an average of 17,172 metric tons of rice per cropping season involving 1,873 farmers.
Likewise, the Topland Irrigators Association Inc. also issued a separate resolution opposing the Tampakan project. The combined area of members of this association is 1,260 hectares.
The local Catholic Church repeatedly asked the government to stop the mining project because it will supposedly destroy the watersheds in the mountains that supply water in the low lands.
The concern aired by the agriculture department on the impact of the Tampakan project came even as President Benigno Aquino III has yet to issue a new mining policy statement.
John B. Arnaldo, Sagittarius Mines external communications and media relations manager, said the Tampakan project, if allowed to proceed, will employ environment practices in accordance with national and global standards.
An open-pit mining ban imposed by the Provincial Government of South Cotabato has been hounding the Tampakan project, touted as the largest known undeveloped copper-gold deposit in Southeast Asia.
It was the main reason cited by the DENR for rejecting the application of Sagittarius Mines for an environmental compliance certificate in January.
The company appealed the rejection but the DENR maintained its position in a decision handed last month.
Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on June 20, 2012.