The House Committee on Natural Resources, chaired by Bayan Muna Partylist Rep. Carlos Isagani T. Zarate, has approved House Bill 2852 declaring North Cotabato a mining free-zone.
The proposal, authored by North Cotabato 3rd District Rep. Jose “Pingping” I. Tejada, also provides penalties for the violation of the Act.
“Mining and other extractive industries are among the most destructive activities on the planet, especially for indigenous and farming communities. The minerals, metals, fuel and timber that mining companies seek are very profitable and resisting them from the injurious utilization and degradation of the environment is a huge undertaking,” the politiko said.
Tejada said North Cotabato is rich in natural resources, and has a highly diverse culture and strategic trading site in Central Mindanao. Moreover, the province’s economy relies on farm production activities and agribusiness that it substantially depends on the topography and geological features of the land.
North Cotabato is also considered as Mindanao’s food basket because it is a major producer of cereals, tropical fruits, vegetables, sugarcane, coconut, coffee, freshwater fish and livestock.
It is also one of the country’s leading producers of raw and semi-processed rubber and industrial trees, with markets in Asia and Europe.
Tejada said North Cotabato’s major assets are Mt.Apo and the Pulangi River which is a major source of Mindanao’s irrigation system and hydro-electric energy.
Furthermore, the Liguasan Marsh is considered a possible source of natural gas and supplies a lot of freshwater fish and organic fertilizer.
In July 2004, Tejada said the provincial government passed Ordinance 325 or the Environment Code of the Province of North Cotabato as an expression of the collective will of the people for the protection of the environment and natural resources for the benefit of the future generation of Cotabateños.
Explicity stated in said ordinance is the prohibition of open-pit mining as a means of extracting metallic and non-metallic deposits from the earth.
“An environment vulnerable to the effects of mining can no longer support and sustain life existing in it. The catastrophic effects of mining are the conditions that our children and future generations will have to endure – a deadly inheritance abridging the right to life, livelihood, health and security,” the North Cotabato solon said.