The social action arm of the Philippine Catholic bishops has expressed “solidarity” with the people of Sibuyan Island who launched a protest action against the operation of a mining company in their community
In a statement released on Monday, February 6, Caritas Philippines voiced “serious concern” over the violence that erupted last week when policemen tried to break a barricade set up by protesters.
“We strongly support the Diocese of Romblon’s efforts to protect the environment by opposing the mining project in Sibuyan,” read the Caritas Philippines statement.
Earlier, the Romblon Diocesan Council of the Laity issued a statement deploring the continuous attempts of the mining company to operate on the island.
The lay organization also criticized the government for “turning a deaf ear” and for allowing the company “to reach our soil” despite strong public opposition.
“Together with all the people of good will in the diocese who cry out against mining, we cry with one voice, stop mining in Sibuyan,” read the group’s statement.
“As an expression of solidarity, we appeal to all the faithful to storm the heavens with our prayers, and provide every possible support to the people of Sibuyan who struggle for justice,” added the lay organization.
Caritas Philippines said faith-based grouos are “committed to advancing the principles of Laudato Si and be bearers of hope in the face of an ecological crisis, following our Lord Jesus, our Redeemer.”
Laudato si’ is the second encyclical of Pope Francis “on care for our common home.” It is a critique of consumerism and irresponsible development and it laments environmental degradation and global warming, and calls all people of the world to take “swift and unified global action.”
In its statement, Caritas Philippines, and the Social Action Network of the Catholic Church in the country, said they commit to “integrate the care of creation as our common home in our teaching and practice of Christian discipleship” through concrete ecological actions.
“We feel a moral duty to safeguard and uphold the well-being of our shared environment,” read the statement, adding that the mining project in Sibuyan “would not serve the overall interests of the province and would pose a threat, particularly to the lives and lands of the communities on the island, and the rich biodiversity in the area.”
“If we persist in damaging our only home, there will be no going back and our children, not just us, will bear the consequences of a degraded environment. Let us not pass on this legacy to future generations,” said Caritas Philippines.
The group said that to care for the world “means to care for ourselves,” adding that “we need to think of ourselves more and more as a single-family dwelling in a common home.
“Such care does not interest those economic powers that demand quick profits,” added the Church group. “Often the voices raised in defense of the environment are silenced or ridiculed, using apparently reasonable arguments that are merely a screen for special interests,” it saud, quoting Fratelli Tutti, another encyclical released by Pope Francis.
Caritas Philippines and the Social Action Network called on Altai Philippines Mining Corporation and other mining companies “to stop destructive mining.”
They also called on the Department of Environment and Natural Resources “to prioritize protecting people and nature before vested socio-economic and political interests.”
In a demonstration on Monday, activists and residents of Sibuyan called on the Environment department to issue a cease and desist order that would stop the operations of the mining company.
Rodne Galicha, executive director of Living Laudato Si, said an urgent cease and desist order “must be done … to prevent further damage to ecosystems and people.”
Jaybee Garganera, coordinator of Alyansa Tigil Mina, said his organization supports the calls of the residents and environment defenders.
“We demand that the [Environment department] spare no time in issuing a cease and desist order and justly heed and respect the will and sentiments of the Sibuyanons,” said Garganera.
Residents of Sibuyan set up a “people’s barricade” since the last week of January to stop the operations of Altai Philippines Mining Corporation, which had reportedly started to transport nickel ore off the island.