We Stand United for the Integrity of God’s Creation in Mindanao

Our world with its mountains and valleys, rivers and lakes, dry lands and wetlands, our mountains in South Cotabato, our fertile rice fields in the lowlands, are gifts entrusted to us for the good of all humankind by a loving Creator.  Through the inspiration of St. Francis of Assisi and the prophetic leadership of Pope Francis we are learning that today anew.  Created all by a loving and provident God, Pope Francis reiterates in his encyclical, Laudato Si, we are sisters and brothers to the sun, the moon, the water and the seas, every living creature, but especially to one another who share the same human flesh and human spirit.  Francis asks: in this fraternity of creatures, who is the poorest of the poor, who is the most oppressed among the oppressed.  He answers:  Mother Earth. He asserts this because human beings are caught in a vicious cycle of uncontrolled consumerism, and uncontrolled exploitation of the world’s resources through a globally integrated production mammoth that feeds the consumerism, in order to increase the consumption.  This is done by continually improving the mammoth production machine of the globe through science and technology, giving the small group of those owners who are eventually controlled by this machine the power to destroy the earth and destroy humanity with it to keep it producing.  The machine generates all manner of pollution and waste, much of it toxic, that is difficult to discard, and continually harmful to the environment.  Among the most deplorable of its waste products are human beings, who because they are yet unborn or elderly, who for lack of education and training cannot be made part of the continually improving production machine and the privileged human beings who consume what it produces, who because of where they were born or the color of their skin or the shape of their eyes are discarded from the production process and thrown away.  In this vicious cycle driven by the technocratic paradigm (101-114), Francis warns the oppressed Mother Earth and the rich diversity of life it supports, including humanity, are clearly endangered. 

Today, as undeniable signs point to the resurgence of large-scale open pit mining in South Cotabato and neighboring provinces, we come together to object to this mammoth project that will destroy old growth forests, annihilate precious bio-diversity and displace the B’laan peoples in order to make way for a gaping open-pit mine whose waste products would be toxic and potentially destructive of Mindanao’s fresh water and food supplies for possibly 2000 years.  Today we stand to take power against the technocratic paradigm that is the soul of the global productive machine that looks hungrily at the minerals of Tampakan and is willing to destroy local life and livelihood and Mother Earth to get at it.

Today we come together in unity to ask our politicians, esp. our Brother President Digong from Mindanao,  to take a position with us against this voracious production machine that feeds the foreign global economy and influences our own, but severely wounds the natural Mindanao environment and throws away people, the B’laans of Mindanao, the farmers of Mindanao, the peoples of Mindanao dependent on God’s creation for fresh water and food.  We ask our politicians to view the long term and stand for the environmental rights not only of today’s Mindanawons, but of future generations of Mindanawons, whose welfare we cannot compromise for the short-term, for-profit interests of a privileged few.  As Pope Francis urges in his new encyclical, Fratelli Tutti, good politics must not be subservient to the economy that increasingly marginalizes and throws away people through its technocratic paradigm (177).  Good politicians must as part of the fraternity of human beings stand for and control an economy that respects all human beings and respects all the creatures that God entrusted to us for the sustainable good of all human beings.  This includes the peoples, the mountains, the forests, the rivers, and the fertile rice fields of Mindanao.  Today, taking power into our hands as united citizens, religious leaders, academicians, civil service organizations, local communities and peoples of Mindanao, we – 89 organisational and 425 individual signatories – stand for the integrity of God’s creation in Mindanao and the good of all the peoples of Mindanao, past, present and future, whom he willed to benefit from his creation.


Unity Statement re: Tampakan Mining Project

Protect Tampakan… Defend Mindanao: SMI Tampakan, Leave MindaNOW

We are one with the peoples of Mindanao and as the Filipino people, united in faith that calls for ecological justice and integrity.  

We vigorously oppose, vehemently denounce and verily object to this Tampakan Mining Project of the Sagittarius Mines Inc. (SMI), whose key player is the Alcantara Group of Companies.

KNOW THE FACTS:   The Tampakan Mining Project is a mammoth project and leviathan in its impact.   SMI Tampakan covers 4 provincial boundaries[1] , the headwaters of six (6) catchments and 2 major river systems, where:

  • Nearly 10,000 hectares of forestland will be razed, 50% of which are closed and open canopy forests. The open pit is 800 meters deep, 2.5 km wide and 3 km long.
  • 1000 families will be ejected from their community, relocating 5000 persons, including women and children.
  • AT LEAST 5000 farmers/irrigators depend on the headwaters in the FMA for their cultivation of prime agricultural lands.
  • 500 hectares will be covered by waste rock high in arsenic and ripe for acid mine drainage. The area sits on geological faultlines and a cluster of dormant volcanoes within 12 km of Mt. Matutum, an active volcano[2].
The Project lies at the heart of river systems
Map of the Catchment Areas and River Systems. Figure 3-2.7 Environmenal Impact Statement (EIS) of the Tampakan mining project. Presented by Bishop Allan Casicas, DD at the SoMEDay in Tampakan stakeholders’ forum. 30 October 2020. https://www.facebook.com/ateneo.dedavao/videos/683665009191672
Nestled in a network of faultlines
Distribution of Active Faults and Trenches in the Philippines. Philiippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology . https://www.phivolcs.dost.gov.ph/index.php/earthquake/earthquake-generators-of-the-philippines.

SMI Tampakan will leave irreversible impacts on food security, peoples and biodiversity, and is a serious threat to peace and security including Mindanao’s resilience to climate change.

Mindanao is being primed as the food basket of the country with 1/3 of its land devoted to agriculture, even as it ranks high in poverty incidence and heightened conflict areas.  It is also home to the critically endangered Philippine Eagle as well as rich flora and fauna species with high endemicity.[5] Globally threatened species are also found in Mindanao. 

Protecting Tampakan is defending Mindanao and its key role in the Philippine economy and environment and the rest of the world.


We do not want another Marcopper disaster: dead rivers, a heavily silted and toxic Calancan Bay, heavy metals flowing in the bloodstream of children, tailings-laced ricefields, from nearly 25 years ago until today.

  • When the mine tailings are dumped, or the open pit operates, which river systems will die? Can Sarangani Bay survive a power station and a filter plant that will dewater the mine concentrate?
  • When water to be used in the mining operations is 300 million liters per second[6] which rivers will dry up and how many hectares of farmland will become wasteland? [7]
  • When the forests are cleared where will the people go? How will they live when their lifeblood is the forests and rivers? How many threatened flora and fauna species will go extinct?
  • How will Mindanaoans brace for the impact of natural disasters and remain resilient when the region’s vulnerable ecosystem has become more fragile? Mining accounts for the highest number of human-induced earthquakes worldwide.[8]


In 2016, SMI’s permit was cancelled by then Secretary Gina Lopez of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).  She had said that the environmental compliance certificate (ECC) should not have been issued at all due to serious irregularities.

In 2019, the Office of the President restored this ECC. How can a cancelled ECC be “restored”? And have the issues surrounding the illegitimate issuance of the ECC been resolved?

In 2020, we learned that the contract of the Tampakan Mining Project was extended for 12 years. The Financial and Technical Assistance Agreement/FTAA expired last March 2020. Apparently, in 2016, the previous administration’s Mines and Geosciences Bureau Director of the DENR Leo L. Jasareno, “approved” the 12 year extension.

But isn’t this being done behind the back of President Rodrigo Duterte who has declared repeatedly that the protection of the Filipino people and the environment is NON-NEGOTIABLE in his term?

Or did President Rodrigo Duterte himself consent to this 12-year extension by his silence? Did he actually consent to a project that endangers the whole of Mindanao, its old-growth forests, its rivers, its flourishing rice fields, the rights of the B’laans and the livelihood of 200,000 farmers in the interests of foreigners, or worse, in the private interest of political allies in business with foreigners? If not, as we suspect, are there not odious signs of malpractice in government in the resurgence of the Tampakan mines?

This October, Indigenous Peoples’ Month, the public learned that tribal rights were “granted” to the SMI Tampakan by the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) (NCIP) in a CP (Certification Precondition) issued last September 19. NCIP is charged to protect the rights of the indigenous peoples. News of this NCIP move came after the Koronadal City Regional Trial Court upheld the constitutionality of the open-pit mining ban of South Cotabato last October 12.

How can the actions of government be justified and reconciled?


The silence of DENR Secretary Roy Cimatu is deafening with consent.

The silence of President Rodrigo Duterte fails to protect his Mindanao and its peoples.

Silence means YES.  Yes to the destruction fomenting in the horizon:

  • The brewing disintegration of cultures and peoples especially the B’laans;
  • The backlash of losing the remaining forest cover of Mindanao in the face of climate change;
  • The worsening water crisis in Mindanao
  • The continuing suffering of peoples, especially farmers, women and children in Mindanao

Adverse impacts will be felt not only in Tampakan and the entire island of Mindanao – potentially for 2000 years. As Mindanao is the food basket of the country, a national food crisis in the middle of a pandemic looms.


  • Recall the 12-year extension of the FTAA of SMI Tampakan mining.
  • Respect the open-pit mining ban of South Cotabato and ensure the safety of the peoples and environment in all provinces.
  • Repeal the Philippine Mining Act of 1995 and prioritize the Alternative Minerals Management Bill
  • Reconcile the governance priorities of the national government and local government on its mining policy and its environmental agenda as a whole.

Economic recovery stimuli to cope with the pandemic cannot be an excuse for mining. We cannot afford to compromise the environment especially in a pandemic brought about precisely by the exploitation of nature and biodiversity.

With our youth and young leaders we watch closely especially as the elections draw near – for signs of

genuine and sincere leadership in environmental governance.

We are One for Mindanao and one as a Filipino people. We listen to the cry of the Earth and the cry of the poor especially in Mindanao: Oya Mindanao.

We share our voices with our sisters and brothers, our mothers/fathers and children in Mindanao.

Tampakan and Mindanao is Our Common Home: Let us protect Tampakan and defend Mindanao.

SMI Tampakan, leave MindaNOW.


[1] The final mining area (FMA) covers 9,605 hectares of land covering 4 different municipalities in Davao Del Sur (Kiblawan), Sultan Kudarat (Columbio), Sarangani (Malungon) and South Cotabato (Tampakan). This EXCLUDES the OLI (Offlease infrastructure) area and the Resettlement Area. The OLI includes a slurry pipeline and transmission lines that will traverse the provinces of South Cotabato and Sarangani. The proposed site of the filter plant and power station is at the coast of Sarangani Bay. Potential resettlements sites will affect nine (9) barangays within the areas of the ancestral domain. Research Brief: Mining and Water Governance prepared by the Ateneo Tropics and Ateneo Institute of Anthropology. August 2013. (unpublished research and joint review of the EIA process and results for the Tampakan Mining Project).

[2] https://www.preda.org/2012/the-tampakan-mine-has-a-high-potential-for-loss-of-life-and-high-environmental-damage-if-the-facilities-fail/

[3] Map of the Catchment Areas and River Systems. Figure 3-2.7 Environmenal Impact Statement (EIS) of the Tampakan mining project. Presented by Bishop Allan Casicas, DD at the SoMEDay in Tampakan stakeholders’ forum. 30 October 2020. https://www.facebook.com/ateneo.dedavao/videos/683665009191672

[4] Distribution of Active Faults and Trenches in the Philippines. Philiippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology .  https://www.phivolcs.dost.gov.ph/index.php/earthquake/earthquake-generators-of-the-philippines.

[5] Of the 812 flora species, 247 are Philippine endemics and 52 are Mindanao endemics and 55 species are threatened. Mindanao is called the bull’s eye of biodiversity because 95% of amphibians and reptiles in the region can only be found in Mindanao. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/10/161017150914.htm Also, 437 of 600 birds found in the Philippines are found in Mindanao, of which 32 are endemics and 38 are globally threatened species. https://avibase.bsc-eoc.org/

[6] This equivalent to the 3 day bulk water supply for most (70%)  of Davao city from the Tamugan Bulk Water Supply Project.

[7] “Severe water shortage is projected to be experience in 2040, where agriculture is the most stressed sector and Mindanao, the most stressed region.” National Drought Plan for the Philippines (2019). Pp. 30-31  https://knowledge.unccd.int/sites/default/files/country_profile_documents/1%2520FINAL_NDP_Philippines.pdf

[8] National Geographic (2017). “How Humans are causing deadly earthquakes.“  https://www.nationalgeographic.com/news/2017/10/human-induced-earthquakes-fracking-mining-video-spd/ Date last accessed: 1 November 2020

About Joel Tabora, S.J.

Jesuit. Educator
This entry was posted in Justice and Peace, Personal Views, Position Paper. Bookmark the permalink.

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