MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/02 March) – Forty leaders of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP) from different parts of Mindanao have declared their full support to calls for an end to mining.
UCCP pastors and church workers from Bukidnon, Misamis Oriental, Lanao and Zamboanga issued the statement during the conference on mining and its effects last February 27–29 in Iponan, Cagayan de Oro City.
The statement was based on the stand of the Ecumenical Bishops Forum that “destructive mining is blatantly unethical, unjust, and senseless for it exacerbates poverty, causes dislocation of livelihood of the people, and even threatens the base of life and life itself.”
“For decades already, we have spent time providing awareness to our communities through basic ecology seminars, tree planting etc. but why is it that disasters haven’t been halted? Clearly, because while we promote environmental protection, the government’ laws and policies allow the wanton destruction of the environment like the passage of the Mining Act of 1995,” said Bishop Melzar Labuntog, UCCP head of church for Northwestern Mindanao, in his Biblico-theological reflection.
The gathering unanimously called for the passage of HB 4315 or the Peoples’ Mining Bill which is seen as a solution to the ecological problems caused by both small- and large-scale mining.
Sr. Leah Ann Espina of the Religious of the Good Shepherd cited the murder of Italian missionary Fr. Fausto Tentorio as an example of what may happen to people who oppose mining.
“It is also quite appalling that more environment advocates and defenders of farmers, laborers, Indigenous Peoples are victims of human rights violations and extra-judicial killings. And yet, no amount of coercion, threat or intimidation can weaken a prophet’s spirit (referring to Fr. Tentorio),” Espina, who represented the Sisters’ Association in Mindanao (SAMIN) Bukidnon-Cagayan sub-region, said.
Based on data from Balsa Mindanao, a disaster response and environmentalist group, as of last month 12 mining companies were operating in areas in Region 10 affected by storm Sendong. Exploration permits given to nine companies reportedly covered some 42,000 hectares.
Fifty-one companies have applied for exploration permits in Bukidnon province alone, the group added.
For his part, Aldeem Yanez, Balsa Mindanao media coordinator lauded the effort made by UCCP and other religious institutions.
Yanez said they were glad that church organizations have shifted their focus to environment advocacy, citing in particular the plan of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente to hold ecological workshops and other activities for their youth.
He said he expects greater collaboration among the churches in support to issues concerning the environment. (Erwin Mascarinas/MindaNews)