Tribals continue to back Tampakan Project, rebuke Church

A member of the influential tribal council in Salnaong, a remote town in Tampakan, South Cotabato, has reiterated her community’s support to large-scale mining in their area.

Josephine Malid told a group of media persons  in Koronadal City that without Sagittarius Mines, Inc. (SMI), their lives as B’laan tribes people “would have been very different.”

SMI is developing a $5.9 billion world-class copper and gold mine in Tampakan.

Malid said that without the company’s socio-economic interventions in the community which began some five years ago, their children would not have enjoyed free schooling.

Whereas before, residents rode habal-habal, today, some of them own their own vehicles, she said. Various seminars sponsored by the company have also enabled them to explore livelihood opportunities.

Across the entire project area that straddles five municipalities in South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Davao del Sur, and Sarangani, these include programs on new farming technology and farm support, banana, corn and potato production, dressmaking and other projects.

“I would not be here now before a press conference, were it not for SMI,” Malid said, alluding to the poverty and backwardness that once pervaded her town.

Around the project area, more than 14,000 elementary, high school and college students have availed themselves of full  scholarships, according to company records.

Malig also took a swipe at the Church, whose members recently visited Salnaong unannounced. Their visit, made under the pretext of investigating a food blockade imposed by the Tampakan local government, had riled Malig and her peers. She said the Church had no business being in Salnaong.

“They did not even coordinate with us before coming up to our place,” she said, adding that such a visit merited at least a courtesy letter.

Malid detested what she believed was a Church “injecting anti-mining sentiments” into her community. Salnaong, she said, remains strongly in support of SMI.

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