Impose moratorium on mining, CBCP urges anew in pastoral letter

Published by rudy Date posted on December 10, 2008

Concerned about the continued threats against the environment, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) yesterday issued a pastoral letter reiterating its appeal for a moratorium on mining activities and called for a multisectoral cooperation against illegal logging.

CBCP president and Jaro Iloilo Archbishop Angel Lagdameo said the government and the people should work together to preserve and protect the environment and put little consideration on the short-term benefits.

“No material gain can equate the value of life. Every Filipino depends on the environment. Because of the threats against these fragile resources, our lives and livelihood are likewise threatened,” said Lagdameo in the pastoral letter titled “Upholding the Sanctity of Life.”

He added: “The challenge to preserve our beautiful land may be difficult but not impossible. We recommend that dioceses, parishes and other institutions especially the government would foster education on the protection of nature.

“We encourage every citizen to eliminate wasteful consumption. We pray that the government, in making economic and political decisions, would always consider that true stewardship does not mean economic gains for the powerful few. True stewardship is the constant and continuing work for the benefit of all.”

These were the same positions expressed by the CBCP exactly 20 years ago in its pastoral letter titled “What is Happening to our Beautiful Land?”

Their message remains the same: “There is an urgency about this issue which calls for widespread education and immediate action. We are convinced that the challenge we have tried to highlight here is similar to the one which Moses put before the people of Israel, before they entered their promised land. ”

Lagdameo cited three most pressing environmental problems in the country: illegal logging, irresponsible mining, and the global warming and climate change.

He said the Philippines has a poor record of community accountability, allowing mining firms to “rape” Mother Earth, thus leading to impoverished communities and environmental despoliation.

Even the Mining Act encourages the exploitation of the land by granting priority access rights to water and timber, he said.

At present, there are 23 priority mining projects that have been identified, covering 60 percent of protected areas and about one-third of ancestral lands.

“We should be reminded that the Church’s mission includes offering people an opportunity not to have more but to be more by awakening their conscience through the Gospel. We should learn from our indigenous Filipinos who managed their forests in a sustainable way for hundreds and thousands of years,“ Lagdameo said.

He said the government, non-government organizations and the people should consider alternative solutions, such as agro-forestry and eco-tourism, to resolve problems such as poverty and lack of employment.

“The Church joins in the collective and continuous call against the uncontrollable plunder of our natural resources. Above all, it calls for a moratorium on mining activities until the government and the mining companies learn to uphold the right of the indigenous peoples, compensate the affected communities for past damages, and ensure responsible mining practices,” he said.

Lagdameo also expressed concern about illegal logging, which leads to loss of biodiversity, instability and massive erosion of upland soils, and serious damage to rivers and underground freshwater ecosystems and coastal areas.

He said, “The problem of illegal logging is an extremely complicated issue that must be dealt with by all stakeholders. The CBCP calls for an enhanced multisectoral cooperation, and the implementation of effective measures to clamp down on the illegal logging trade.”

Lagdameo appealed to the Arroyo administration to issue a total commercial log ban and intensify efforts to rehabilitate and reforest logged-over areas, particularly those vulnerable to earthquakes, landslides and floods.–Evelyn Macairan, Philippine Star

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