Kidapawan, South Cotabato – Amidst the global push for countries to take seriously the call to declare climate emergency, mining affected communities in the Philippines met and dialogued with some Mindanao Bishops on the issues and problems brought about mining operations in their areas and the need to protect environment.
“We are gathered today amidst our struggle to protect our common home against corporate greed causing massive environmental destruction. And while we struggle separately in each of our communities against the impact of mining, we recognize that our struggle is very much connected with one another and with nature, and our efforts to protect our common home should be done with a sense of urgency”, said Rene Pamplona of the Convergence of Initiatives for Environmental Justice (CIEJ) during his welcome remarks as host to the the bi-annual conference of the mining affected communities and their partner NGO organized by the Philippine Misereor Partnership Inc. (PMPI).
Participants of the said Conference are from Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao. It is held twice a year as part of PMPI’s commitment to build strong linkages with local communities and Dioceses. The event was organized at the heart of the City of Koronadal in South Cotabato, and made more relevant with the participation of Most Rev. Cerilo Casicas, D.D., Bishop of the Diocese of Marbel and Most Rev. Jose Colin Bagaforo, D.D. Bishop of the Diocese of Kidapawan.
During the dialogue between mining affected communities, Bishop Bagaforo expressed deep commitment to take on the issues of mining-affected communities within the church. He said, “…the role of the Social Action Center from Dioceses for the protection the environment is more important now than ever before.”
Bishop Bagaforo is the newly elected Chairperson of the Ecumenical Commission for Social Action, Justice and Peace of the Catholic Bishops Conference or commonly known as CBCP NASSA/Caritas Philippines – the social development arm of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines.
Bishop Casicas stressed “The work for justice and the work for the protection of the creation appears to us as constitutive to our work on evangelization.” He further said that, in Pope Francis’ Encyclical Letter – Laudato Si – the Church has already made it’s choice to work for the protection of our common home. Further, he highlighted that the Catholic Church’s work on the care for our common home and for the protection of the environment rests not only on the bishops and the clergy, but on the laypersons as well. He said that empowering communities should be a primordial concern of the civil society groups.
Both Bishops believe that the destruction of environment brought about by mining operations need to be addressed with urgency by the government and mining companies violating the laws and the rights of people must be held accountable.
Yoly Esguerra, National Coordinator of PMPI said, “This conference is special for the mining affected communities. They were able to converse directly with their Pastors and share how their lives have been negatively affected by mining. The Bishops on the one hand listened and raised questions with sensitivity. The process facilitated greater solidarity among mining affected communities through a statement signed by the Conference participants with the two Bishops.” She also emphasized that more dialogue and greater cooperation such as this is needed, given the extent of the environmental crisis we are facing today.
The conference statement strongly calls out mining corporations for their numerous violations and continuous circumvention of our laws – their responsibility to decommission, pay for damages to humans and the environment, and rehabilitate mined-out areas across the Philippines. It also calls for greater commitment to protecting not only people’s rights but the rights of Mother Earth.