PMPI National Coordinator Yolanda R. Esguerra addresses the crowd during the culminating activity of ‘Salakyag para sa Sangnilikha 2018’ at Mendiola Peace Arch in Manila City. Photo by Jerico Catalla.
Quezon City – Salakyag para sa Sangnilikha 2018, a nationwide caravan by NGOs, people’s organisation and faith-based groups reaches Manila to dialogue with the government after a long journey that started in Zamboanga City. Salakyag is a campaign for the protection and conservation of the environment and for upholding the Rights of Nature.
The caravan, with initially 34 members has grown in numbers to almost 200 hundred delegates from the different parts of Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao brings together in solidarity the plight of the different communities; the watershed campaign in Zamboanga, illegal logging in Ipil and Cagayan de Oro, threats of coal in Dipolog and in the Provinces of Quezon, quarrying in Northern Samar provinces, large-scale mining in Butuan, Surigao, Eastern Samar and in Rapu-Rapu Islands.
The group is set to deliver to President Duterte through its key officials in DENR the 1 Million signatures from community supporters as a testament that there is indeed clamor to stop the systematic, continuous, and massive killing of the environment and push for a law that will give nature a right to exist and sustain itself.
This event coincides the celebration of the World Environment Day encouraging worldwide awareness and action for the protection of our environment celebrated in over 100 countries. The caravan, with hundreds of contingent all over the country is in solidarity for the national campaign for the Rights of Nature.
Rights of Nature made strides when the Universal Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth was drafted during the Rights of Mother Earth Conference organized in Bolivia in 2010, which became the anchor for the establishment of Rights of Nature Tribunals platforms around the world. The initiative made traction when Ecuador enshrined it in their Constitution and Bolivia passed a Bill on the Rights of Nature.
In a press conference in San Pablo City, PMPI National Coordinator Ms. Yoly Esguerra highlighted a study by an international human rights NGO citing 137 documented cases of human rights violation against environmental advocates – in which, 49 of these are found in the Philippines alone.
Esguerra added, “We are troubled that our country is tagged worldwide as among the most dangerous place for environmental advocates and the victims are mostly indigenous peoples, farmers and community leaders and advocates. Salakyag is also disturbed that poor people are among most affected by environmental destruction – farmers, fishers, IPs. They suffer the brunt of the natural disasters the most, brought about by rapid climate change happening in the world.”
Meanwhile, Rev Monsignor Jerry Bitoon, Vicar General of the Diocese of San Pablo, in his welcome message to the contingents, highlighted the call of the church through Pope Francis’ Laudato Si to an ecological conversion, return to a life and relationship with nature, an attitude of respect and recognition that all creation has the right to exist, flourish and regenerate, and people who kill and destroy should be held accountable.
The group also pushes for network’s alternative proposals such as pending bills on Alternative Minerals Management Bill (AMMB), National Land Use Act (NLUA), and the Forests Resources Bill (FRB), also called Green Bills.
Salakyag para sa Sangnilikha 2018 is organized by the Philippine Misereor Partnership, Inc. (PMPI), a social development and advocacy network of NGO, POs, and Social Action Centers from Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao in cooperation with NASSA Caritas Philippines, the social arm of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines.