Mati diocese launches an anti-mining campaign; priests notice bribery in the “donation”

DAVAO ORIENTAL, Philippines After the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) in Davao Region has ordered the closure of a mining operation in Davao Oriental province after an investigation showed that it caused the siltation and discoloration of two rivers in Banaybanay town, Father Alfe Alimbon, one of the priests, claimed that Mati Bishop Abel Apigo rejected a large payment from the Asiaticus Management Corporation (AMCOR) to the diocese because it was viewed as an effort at bribery.

A 17,000-hectare concession area has been given to AMCOR, a partnership between Austral-Asi Link Mining Corporation and Hallmark Mining Corporation, for the extraction of nickel laterites, iron, and cobalt. It claimed that the mining business has been a “huge donor” and even assisted in the construction of a church in Barangay Dawan in Mati City, denying any attempts to bribe the diocese.

 

“Not all of the local clergy are against our mining business. Without naming the priests who support its mining operations, AMCOR manager Dr. Arvin Carlom claimed, “There are some who support us.

 

The company was shut down in 2017 for breaking environmental rules by the late former environment secretary Gina Lopez, but the government permitted it to reopen in 2019.

 

“We are aiming for a full blast operation soon. We will be putting up our processing plant, which is very costly so that we don’t have to send our minerals abroad. That is the direction of our company, which is in line with the plans of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.,” Carlom added.

 

Signature initiative

 

The Catholic diocese of the province has begun organizing efforts to halt AMCOR and other miners through, among other things, a signature campaign and the use of church pulpits to raise public awareness of the harmful impacts of mining on the environment.

 

The governor of Davao Oriental, Corazon Malanyaon, disapproves of mining activities and has appointed a retired general to head a campaign against unauthorized miners and to be strict with those who hold mining concession licenses in the province.

Malanyaon previously stated that the capital would not be tolerant of mining corporations operating under the Department of Environment and Natural Resources breaking environmental laws (DENR).

 

“Huge Donor”

 

AMCOR CEO reportedly offered what priests perceived to be a bribe at a meeting with the new Mati Bishop Apigo at the Saint John of the Cross Clergy House, according to Father Alimbon, a chancellor of the Diocese of Mati.

 

On Thursday, July 28, Alimbon told Rappler that a group of priests had seen Apigo being instructed by the administration to indicate how much the diocese needs for its churches but that the bishop had respectfully refused.

 

According to a comment from an executive, “You tell us, bishop, how much you need from us, and we will provide it to you anytime,” was spoken to the bishop. Your new churches’ construction will be funded by us.

 

Carlom claims, “We had a wonderful relationship with the former bishop of Mati.” As of April 2021, Bishop Alo had passed away.

 

“We have been operating here since 2002, and aside from a few monks who are genuinely against us, we have not seen pushback to our mining operations,” Carlom continued. But we’ll keep having conversations with them.

 

He asserted that the business had assisted numerous families in the province’s villages with sustaining their livelihoods, and these folks had subsequently turned out to be supporters of AMCOR.

Carlom claimed that only 7% of residents of the mining company’s host communities were against the firm’s operations, a figure that, as of the time of this publication, could not be independently verified.

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