(Koronadal City, March 23, 2023) – The prelate of the Diocese of Marbel has called on South Cotabato governor Reynaldo Tamayo to hold a dialogue with the public over recent information they received of the Court of Appeals decision over the province’s open pit mining ban.

In a letter dated March 16, 2023, Diocese of Marbel Bishop Cerilo Casicas D.D. said “We recently received information that the Court of Appeals has already rendered a Decision on the appeal against the Koronadal Regional Trial Court’s upholding of the open-pit mining ban as a valid exercise of the police power by the province. We respectfully request the Governor’s good office to enlighten us on what their plan of action is regarding this Decision.”

Days after the Diocese’s request, unverified photos of the first page of the CA decision appeared in various social media posts.

The CA decision dated August 22, 2022 validated South Cotabato’s open pit mining ban but ruled that its application is limited to small-scale mining operations only. There has been no formal announcement by the South Cotabato local government on the CA decision, thus prompting the Diocese to request for immediate clarification and conference.

Meanwhile, the Legal Rights and Natural Resources Center (LRC), which works with communities threatened by the risks of open pit mining projects, said the provincial government can still appeal the CA decision.

“This is not the end of the line for the open pit mining ban. Certainly, the provincial government on behalf of their constituencies has the duty to appeal the CA decision precisely as the decision recognizes their police powers,” said Atty. Rolly Peoro, Direct Legal Services Coordinator of LRC.

“The regulatory role granted to local governments is very much part of the national level of mineral and resource governance laws, and hence cannot be limited to just small-scale mining projects. Gov. Tamayo is in a prime position to push back against this curtailment of the autonomy granted by the Local Government Code to local chief executives defending their constituents’ right to a balanced and healthful ecology,” Peoro added.

The Diocese likewise signified that they remain unperturbed by the CA decision and reiterated their prior request for an audience with the governor to discuss the CA decision’s consequences on previous efforts to protect the open pit mining ban.

“Notwithstanding the pronouncement of the Court of Appeals, we remain firm with our stand that open-pit mining operations in South Cotabato pose a great risk to the integrity of the environment of our province and its neighbors. At stake are the health and livelihoods of many.” Bp. Casicas said.

“We trust that the Governor shall exert his best efforts to defend the rights of the people to a balanced and healthful ecology. It is of vital importance that the true meaning and heart of the ordinance are not in any way compromised or defeated. As you know, any open-pit mining operation, especially large-scale, stands to encroach on closed and open canopy forests, some of which are considered integral woodlands. Certainly, mining operations will erase vast areas of agricultural lands, destroy the remaining watershed, and will cause massive and destructive flooding in Mindanao,” the church leader furthered.

Together with their thirty (30) parishes, along with all of their priests, laypeople, and followers, the Diocese urged Gov. Tamayo to join them in “the moral imperative to act together decisively in order to save our common home.”

 Court of Appeals has already rendered a Decision dated 22 August 2022 in  CA-G.R. CV No. 05863  entitled B’laan Indigenous Cultural Communities, et al. v. Provincial Government of South Cotabato.  Said case is an appeal assailing the Decision of the Regional Trial Court of the City of Koronadal declaring that the ban on open–pit mining as stated in South Cotabato’s Environment Code is a valid exercise of the police power by the province.