Bishop Moises Cuevas of the Apostolic Vicariate of Calapan in Mindoro province urged the Catholic faithful to defend “an ecological treasure of unparalleled importance”.
“The protection of this biodiversity hotspot is not just an ecological imperative; it is a moral duty that reflects our love for both creation and our fellow human beings,” the prelate said.
Bishop Cuevas made the statement during a summit aimed at promoting awareness of the importance of the Verde Island Passage on September 29.
The Verde Island Passage is a strait that separates the islands of Luzon and Mindoro, connecting the South China Sea with the Tayabas Bay and the Sibuyan Sea beyond.
It is one of the busiest sea lanes in the Philippines being the main shipping route between the Port of Manila in the north and the Visayas and Mindanao in the south.
The 1.14 million hectare passage is extremely rich in marine biodiversity, the richest area in the entire Coral Triangle. It has been called the “Center of the Center of Marine Shorefish Biodiversity.”
Bishop Cuevas said Verde Island Passage is currently facing a multitude of threats, including overfishing, habitat destruction, pollution, and climate change.
“These threats not only jeopardize the marine life in the passage but also the livelihoods of the local communities that depend on its resources,” he said.
He noted fishing activities in this area serve as “a crucial economic engine,” supporting both the daily needs of local communities and the broader national economy.
The prelate stressed that the protection of the biodiversity hotspot goes beyond ecological concerns, saying “It is a moral duty that reflects humanity’s love for creation and fellow human beings”.
He urged everyone to heed the call to ‘care for our common home’ and listen to the cries of the poor and the Earth, quoting Pope Francis: “We are faced not with two separate crises, one environmental and the other social, but rather with one complex crisis which is both social and environmental.”
Safeguarding the Verde Island Passage, according to the Bishop, is a significant step toward healing our wounded planet and building a more just and sustainable world for future generations.
He called for collective action and cooperation to ensure that this extraordinary gift of nature is preserved for posterity.