The social action arm of the Catholic Church in the Philippines marked the end of the “Season of Creation” with renewed calls for climate action and protection of biodiversity hotspots.
“It is our Christian duty to advance the movement for the protection of ‘Our Common Home’. We owe this to the next generation and to all of Creation,” said Bishop Jose Colin Bagaforo of Kidapawan, president of Caritas Philippines.
The prelate made the statement during the “2nd Bike for Kalikasan (environment)” event in Lobo town in Batangas province on October 7.
At least 300 cyclists, environmental advocates, and church workers participated in the event, which aimed to raise public awareness about the campaign to safeguard the Verde Island Passage.
Bishop Bagaforo said Caritas Philippines brought the cycling event to Batangas this year with the intention of conveying to proponents of destructive, dirty energy projects that their operations will not be tolerated and will be opposed relentlessly.
“We know why we are here. We want to stress the need to defend the environment from these destructive projects and hold the plunderers accountable,” said the prelate.
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.”
Verde Island Passage holds significant marine shorefish biodiversity, but it faces the threat of hosting over 20 gas facilities that local communities and advocates oppose due to their adverse effects on the environment, fisheries, and the local economy.
Archbishop Gilbert Garcera of Lipa encouraged the Catholic faithful to “respond to the Cry of the Poor” and to take action in addressing the climate crisis.
The prelate said the poor are the “most vulnerable to the impacts of the climate crisis” while the rich and the powerful “continue to loot” the Earth’s resources.
The cycling event was followed by a short program and the planting of mangrove trees in Lagadlarin Mangrove Forest Park.
From September 1 to October 4, Christians around the world observe the “Season of Creation”. It is a liturgical memorial of Saint Francis of Assisi, patron of ecology.
In the Philippines, the celebration has been extended until the observance of the annual Indigenous Peoples’ Sunday.