12 March 2008
Leslie Ann G. Aquino
Three Catholic Church leaders urged the public yesterday to continue the fight against large-scale mining in the country due to its negative effect on the environment and the people.
"Mining, in the Philippine experience, not only destroys the environment but has become the vehicle for the violation of human rights, ethnocide of IP (indigenous people) communities, and even deaths," Laoag Bishop Sergio Utleg said during yesterday’s press conference in Intramuros, Manila in observance of the Anti-Mining Solidarity Week.
Utleg, chairman of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines Episcopal Commission on Indigenous People, said despite strong opposition from various dioceses and Indigenous People’s Apostolates on the ongoing mining program of the government, the government has been unwavering in implementing the program made evident by the numerous mining applications that are now threatening various localities particularly those in Mindanao .
"The unceasing invitation for foreigners and local governments to enter into or accept mining ventures is contradictory to the Constitution which explicitly states that the environment and human rights should be nurtured in communities, especially in that of IPs," he said.
Bayombong, Nueva Vizcaya Bishop Ramon Villena, for his part, said while the large-scale mining industry is a lucrative and booming business to foreign and local investors, it doesn’t have the same effect with the IPs.
"The tribes of Bugkalot, Ifugao, Ibaloi, Kalanguya, have started to pay a very high price of being divided and to the point of hating and fighting one another," he said.
"Thus, we appeal to investors to discern very well before deciding where to invest their money and be part of a destructive venture both to people and environment," added the prelate.
Villena also appealed to Department of Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Lito Atienza, the National Commission of Indigenous People to truthfully exercise and fulfil their mandate as protector of the rights of the IPs and to honestly champion their rights especially in the conduct of the free, prior and informed consent.
"We also urge the Commission on Human Rights to immediately investigate and assist our IPs in their complaints against human rights violations by mining firms," he said.
Caloocan Bishop Deogracias Iñiguez, meantime, is hoping that the observance of the Anti-Mining Solidarity Week will open the eyes of the people, the government and even those in the mining industry of the ill effects of such an industry.
"Let us join hands in order to stop the degradation of our environment," said Iñiguez.