CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews/7 June) – Bangon Kagay-an, a civil society which started out as a Facebook group, found a formidable ally in Archbishop Antonio Ledesma, SJ, after a late afternoon meeting Wednesday.
Ledesma offered to “work hand in hand” with the group and that he will lead in the “forming of a broad multi-sectoral front” against mining and logging in the upland villages of the city. The broad multisectoral front, Ledesma added, will meet once every month.
“We can combine resources. (We can) reach out to the academe,” Ledesma said in the meeting.
Ledesma also said he will tap other religious sects and organization for the anti-mining advocacy.
“Actually our Earth Day Statement was co-signed with other religious leaders coming from IFI (Iglesia Filipina Independiente) and UCCP (United Church of Christ in the Philippines). We are also trying to connect with the Islamic leaders in the city,” said Ledesma.
The bishop added that he will also spearhead in convening an inter-university forum against mining. The city is host to Xavier University, Liceo de Cagayan University, Capitol University and the state-run Mindanao University of Science and Technology.
As a first step of consolidating the “united front” against mining, Ledesma invited Bangon Kagay-an leaders to participate in the multisectoral consultation on June 12 at the Patrick Cronin Formation Center at the St. Augustine Cathedral here.
Fr. Nathaniel Lerio, organizer of the activity and executive director of the Archdiocese’s Social Action Center, said the first part of the event will be a presentation by Commission on Audit Commissioner Heide Mendoza on Ethical Leadership and Accountability in Government Service.
“We can then spend the second part of the activity for planning and strategy session,” said Lerio.
In the meeting at the Archbishop’s residence, Bangon Kagay-an chairman Nixon Baban presented his group as “volunteers” in responding to Ledesma’s call to combat the ongoing mining in the hinterland barangays in the city.
“What is worse is that they (mining operators) make it appear they are quarrying and dredging the upstream of Cagayan River but our people in the area have pictures and witnessed how they just dump the soil and gravel back to the river after they thought no one was watching,” Baban said.
Baban added that this practice is threatening the livelihood of the vegetable farmers in the upland barangays of the city because it has silted “heavily” their farmlands.
“We present ourselves as volunteers to the church,” Baban told Ledesma in the meeting.
“I have a moral issue with the officials of the city. We are endangering ourselves here,” Renato Tibon, Bangon Kagay-an vice chairman and chair of the group’s Environmental Concerns said in the meeting. He explained that “there is no sense of regulation in operations of mining in the uplands” and this should alarm everyone downstream of the river, especially with the rainy season kicking in.
Tibon, who is also the president of the Homeowners Association of Emily Homes Subdivision, said that of the 135 families that used to live in their subdivision, only about “32 to 33 families have gone back.” Emily Homes Subdivision is located in Macasandig and one of the worst hit communities in the aftermath of Typhoon Sendong December last year. (Cong B. Corrales / MindaNews)