THE revocation of the mayor’s permit of Sagittarius Mines, Inc. (SMI) for their Tampakan Copper Gold Project is also a "victory" for Dabawenyos, as this would have a detrimental effect in the Davao Gulf if its operation pushes through.

The Municipal Government of Tampakan in South Cotabato revoked the business permit of Sagittarius Mines, Inc. for their Tampakan Copper Gold Project.

In a letter dated September 15 to the management, Mayor Leonard Escobillo said it has revoked the business permit of SMI for defrauding the local government of millions of pesos in local tax remittances.

Escobillo alleged that SMI falsely stated the description of its business in the company’s application for a business permit.

Escobillo said what SMI stated in the application for a business permit was that it was a “mineral exploration manufacturer,” but an assessment showed it has not been operating as such.

Instead, he said, “SMI is operating as a general engineering contractor.”

Part of the revocation notice to SMI read that “the company’s declared amount indicated in your gross receipts come from the sale of your unserviceable assets, such as tables, computers, and equipment, etc. that can be considered as other income but not due to the company’s mining operations/activity.”

Mark Peñalver, executive director of Interfacing Development Interventions for Sustainability (Idis), said the revocation shows how other mining companies are deceitful in their applications.

"Diha nato makita kung unsa ka tuso kaning mga mining companies just to get their activities done. Dako kini kadaugan sa atong kampanya," Peñalver said in a phone interview to SunStar Davao on Friday afternoon, September 16.

However, he said their group, who is strongly opposing SMI's operation, won't stop their campaign until the area will be cleared from any potential operation of the open pit.

Peñalver explained that the Davao Gulf is in danger if the Tampakan Open-Pit Mining pushes through despite the project being geographically distant from Davao City.

He said the open-pit mining project is expected to use groundwater resources that will transport highly toxic wastewater through a 150-km pipe from the Municipality of Malalag draining to Davao Gulf.

The group added that despite the treatment process presented, risks of overland flow, flooding disasters, and possible collapse of tailings ponds will impair marine and aquatic biodiversity including loss of habitat of the sea turtles residing in Davao Gulf due to developments.

The gulf is home to the Hawksbill Sea Turtle that is classified under the IUCN Red List as critically endangered and Green Sea Turtle, which is endangered, as well as Olive Ridley and Leatherback which are classified vulnerable.

"A part of watershed na maapektuhan sa Tampakan Mining is ang Padada Watershed in Davao del Sur, and connected ni siya sa Davao Gulf. Dako ni siya'g impact sa atoa," Peñalver said.

The impact might not be directly felt for now, but the environmentalist said the city or even the entire Davao Region would reap its effect in the distant future.

Envi-groups rejoice

Tampakan Forum welcomed the decision of the mayor to revoke their permit.

“We commend the local government of Tampakan for applying the law and holding the mining company accountable for its false statements in its Mayor’s Permit documents,” Jaybee Garganera, Alyansa Tigil Mina National Coordinator, said.

Rene Pamplona, ATM Chair said the revocation of the Mayor’s Permit is a welcome development especially to the residents who have been opposing mining in the area.”

Lawyer Ryan Roset of Legal Rights and Natural Resources Center (LRC) said Escobillo's move will benefit his constituents.

“As mandated by the Local Government Code, the LGU of Tampakan made good on its duty to ensure benefit for its constituents. We hope Tampakan’s leadership continues to stand firm and further protect Tampakan’s environment—this is ultimately its wealth,” Roset said.

Chinkie Peliño-Golle, regional coordinator of the International Pollutants Elimination Network-Southeast Asia (IPEN-SEA), in a message to SunStar Davao, lauded the government's action.

"For a resident of South Cotabato who has been opposing this big mining operation for a very long time now, I am glad that the LGU has exercised its local autonomy and political will to implement local laws against a giant mining company," Peliño-Golle, who is also a resident of South Cotabato, said.

She also said that even if SMI pay their delinquents, the municipal government should not allow them to reoperate.

'We are just doing our job'

Escobillo in a press conference on Friday morning, clarified that the recoveration doesn't reflect his personal opinion on mining.

We are just doing our job, being officials through implementing our ordinances in Tampakan,” the mayor said.

He added, “Nothing personal about this case. No opinion for or against mining. We are just doing our obligation to implement ordinances.”

Escobillo also said he had also reviewed the permits of other mining companies. He did not provide further details. However, he said it is not an "isolated case."

Earlier, Sagittarius Mines filed a civil case against the local government of Tampakan after the latter charged the company P397 million in taxes. RGL