MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/17 January) – Civil society leaders asked Pope Francis “with great respect” to urge the government to investigate the situation of communities in two islands off Guiuan, Eastern Samar affected by mining and natural disasters.
Eastern Samar Bishop Crispin Varquez said that in a letter handed Saturday to Pope Francis over 20 civil society leaders asked the pontiff to help advocate “for a just and environment-friendly development in Manicani and Homonhon, two islands off the coast of Guiuan, Eastern Samar”.
“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,” Fr. Oliver Castor said.
“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,” Castor said.
The priest 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.”
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.”
Pope Francis arrived in the country on Thursday for a five-day pastoral visit. His itinerary included a visit to Tacloban City on Saturday where he said mass and talked to victims of super typhoon Yolanda.
A Philippine Airlines Airbus 320 brought the papal delegation to Tacloban on Saturday amid stormy weather and landed at around 8:45 a.m. without hitches. The crowd who had waited and prayed for the Pope’s safe arrival cheered as Pope Francis came down the aircraft.
The faithful chanted “Viva El Papa, Papa Francisco” while hundreds of children in colorful costumes performed native dances as Pope Francis went around the crowd aboard his mobile before holding the mass.
The Pope was expected to issue a statement on climate change, which scientists have blamed on destructive human activities that caused global atmospheric temperatures to rise in recent decades. (MindaNews)