Church-based organizations on Monday launched a caravan to promote environmental awareness and climate action in the southern Philippines.
The event ‘Mindanao Salakyag 2023’, short for “Walk, Ride, Sail Together for Creation” in Tagalog, was organized by the Mindanao clusters of the Philippine Misereor Partnership, Inc. (PMPI).
The caravan seeks to raise awareness about environmental degradation, food and human security, and the urgent implications of climate change, according to PMPI.
“We are excited to see the Mindanao community coming together to address the critical environmental issues of our time,” said Yolanda Esguerra, national coordinator of the group.
She expressed hope that the activity will amplify the calls for a declaration of climate emergency in the country and the passage of the proposed ‘Rights of Nature Bill.’
The event started with a discussion of the national environmental situation and the presentation of Pope Francis’ encyclical on the protection of the environment – the Laudato Si’ – at the Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Kabasalan town, Zamboanga Sibugay province.
The Rights of Nature Bill was discussed, which was followed by the pledge of commitment from participants “to protect, respect, and fulfill the rights of both humans and nature”.
“SaLakYag 2023 is a testament to our shared commitment to environmental stewardship and the well-being of our communities,” said Esguerra.
The event will culminate with an environmental summit in General Santos City on October 5.
Rights of Nature is a growing movement in the country spearheaded by the PMPI and Caritas Philippines.
The Rights of Nature legislation was first introduced to the Philippine Congress in 2019.
In July 2022, Sen. Risa Hontiveros reintroduced the measure by filing Senate Bill No. 143 or the “Rights of Nature Act of 2022”.
In 2022, Quezon province’s Infanta local government made a historical mark by filing the country’s first rights of nature ordinance, which established the Agos River as a protected area.