20 years after Fr. Neri Satur’s death:‘Bukidnon’s ecological situation is worse’ – bishop

MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/14 October) – Two decades after the death of Fr. Neri Satur, Bukidnon’s ecological situation “is perhaps even worse than during his time,” Bishop Jose A. Cabantan said in his pastoral letter released to mark the 20th anniversary of his death today.

In spite of the imposition of the logging moratorium in the province in 1990, the Malaybalay bishop said, Bukidnon’s natural forests and watershed areas continue to decline.
He noted that in 2005, the estimated remaining forest cover of Bukidnon was only 25 percent of its total land area.

“Sad to say, this alarming percentage is already far lower than the ideal minimum requirement of an ecological balance, especially that Bukidnon crucially serves as a ‘headwater’ province in Mindanao,” he added.

Cabantan stressed the province is continually threatened by the real possibility of water crisis and plagued by various forms of ecological disasters largely due to the insufficient forest cover “that could no longer render its usual ecological services to the community of life.”

The bishop did not only lament on the situation but also offered encouragement on how to address the situation.

He urged parishioners to help continue the slain priest’s mission “to struggle for the liberation of the poor and the integrity of creation.”

On Oct. 14, 1991, Fr. Satur and his female aide were ambushed on their way back to Valencia City, then a municipality, after celebrating a mass in Barangay Guinoyoran.

He was shot with a shotgun at pointblank range after falling from his motorcycle. His head was smashed with a rifle butt. He was 29.

In September 1990, Satur was 13th on the list of 45 members of the Bukidnon clergy who were deputized by the DENR as forest protection officers upon request of then Malaybalay Bishop Gaudencio Rosales.

In his pastoral letter, which will be read in all 49 parishes in the Diocese of Malaybalay on Sunday, Oct. 16, Cabantan challenged the people to renew commitment to continue the unfinished human and ecological struggles of “the Church he died for.”

The bishop called for the people to continually deepen knowledge of the ecological issues, including the phenomenon of climate change and the global ecological crisis.

“We may begin this locally by updating ourselves with the present ecological situation of Bukidnon,” he said.

Satur, he said, was inspired to zealously implement the logging moratorium in the province and religiously performed the task of a deputized forester as integral to his priestly ministry “even at the cost of his own life.”

The bishop cited the Church’s teaching on “ecological conversion” that calls people to “critically appropriate the best available knowledge offered by the ecological sciences in view of its important role as responsible stewards of God’s creation.”

Cabantan urged for an education of ecological responsibility by making ecological knowledge available to the grassroots level by producing a module both for the basic ecclesial communities (BECs) and individual families.

Cabantan also pushed for the promotion of “sustainable agriculture” and “agro-forestry” throughout the diocese. He said this will strengthen the advocacy and campaign for a clean environment, free from any harmful chemicals that poison the soil and “threaten the health of the community of life”.

He also urged for an alternative mining bill and called on ecology-friendly movements to embark on legal advocacies that seek the common good both of humanity and the natural environment.

“Let this memorable day of Fr. Neri’s martyrdom remind us of our Christian mission to build not only ecclesial and human communities but also ‘ecological communities’ grounded in the perfect and eternal communion of the Blessed Trinity, in whom we live and move and have our being,” he said.

The bishop said a Christian’s mission to care for God’s creation is “within the deep and solid foundation” of his spirituality. (Walter I. Balane / MindaNews)