South Cotabato Governor Reynaldo Tamayo Jr. (File photo courtesy of South Cotabato PIO)

KORONADAL CITY – The South Cotabato government has created a Technical Working Group (TWG) to study the Sangguniang Panlalawigan's (SP) amendment to the province's environment code that lifted the open-pit mining ban.

In an interview Friday, South Cotabato Governor Reynaldo Tamayo Jr. said his decision on whether to veto or not the lifting of the open-pit mining ban will depend on the TWG’S recommendations.

Tamayo said he has yet to receive the amended ordinance.

Within 15 days, the governor can veto or approve the amendments to the province’s environmental code before it lapses into law.

“An Ordinance Providing for the Environment Code of the Province of South Cotabato” was passed on June 9, 2010.

“For now, I cannot say because I don’t want to preempt the decision and findings of the TWG, but I assure you that we are looking at what is good for everybody,” Tamayo said.

In a meeting Thursday with Bishop Cerilo Alan Casicas of the Diocese of Marbel, who supported the open-pit mining ban, the governor said the provincial government must consider several issues and concerns before arriving at a decision.

“Quarrying is part of an open pit, and what the SP approved in Lake Sebu is also an open pit. It will be contradicting if the open-pit mining ban will not be lifted,” Tamayo said.

“We will sit again together with the Bishop and Sagittarius Mines, Inc.  (SMI) to talk about what is right or wrong, and it is important that I can come up with the decision two days before the deadline,” he noted.

Meanwhile, Casicas said he hopes the governor will decide "based on the wisdom of the majority" of South Cotabato residents.

During Thursday's meeting with the governor, the bishop led a group of some 3,000 protesters to the provincial grounds.

“The most important factor is the wisdom of the people more than our voices and SMI,” Casicas said.

Meanwhile, Board Member Ester Marin Catorce, an anti-mining advocate, denied the amended ordinance was recalled by the SP majority group.

On Monday, 11 of 15 SP members approved the measure to lift the 12-year-old open-pit mining ban in the province.

The SMI has been pursuing the Tampakan gold project in the province for years amid stiff opposition, primarily from the local Catholic diocese. (PNA)