(Updated 01/21/15) Eastern Samar Bishop Crispin Varquez last January 20 handed out a letter to Pope Francis, thru the Apostolic Nunciate in Manila, to solicit the pontiff’s help in advocating for a just and environment-friendly development in Manicani and Homonhon, two islands off the coast of Guiuan, Eastern Samar.
The letter, initiated by PMPI and signed by more than 20 member organizations, requested “with great respect” that the pope “urge the government to investigate the situation of the communities in Manicani and Homonhon via an independent multi-stakeholders body and to make necessary measures to stop or mitigate the impact of mining and natural disasters in these communities.”
“We seize this moment to inform the Holy Father of the plight of his flock in Homonhon and Manicani, two islands that graced the headlines more than a year ago for being the welcoming committee to the world’s strongest typhoon to ever make landfall. Unknown to the public is the fact that even before Yolanda, the greed of corporate mining has already destroyed a large part of these beautiful islands. As an advocate of the integrity of creation and of social justice, we know that Pope Francis will be an ally of the residents of these small islands in their fight against mining,” said Fr. Oliver Castor, project officer for anti-mining campaign.
Castor explained that aside from being small island ecosystems, the two islands must be exempt from mining for various reasons.
“The top reason for Manicani is that it is within a territory that was declared as a protected landscape and seascape during the Ramos administration. While Homonhon is a historical site as it is where Ferdinand Magellan first landed in our archipelago that was eventually called as the Philippines. In fact, the National Historical Commission issued a decision to reinstall a historical marker, as the original monument was destroyed by mining according to elder Homonhonanons, in the part of the island that is believed to be the docking area of Magellan’s delegation,” Castor added.
The letter also asked Pope Francis to “call on the European population, government and private institutions, including churches, to review and study their investments portfolios and divest on ventures found to be detrimental to the environment particularly the extractive industries – mineral and fossil fuel.”
Below is the full text of the letter submitted to the Papal Nuncio: