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6 bishops appeal to govt: Stop mining in Eastern Visayas

At least six bishops from Eastern Visayas made an impassioned appeal to government leaders to stop mining in their region. Mining in the region will only worsen the environment's deteriorating state and destroy the livelihood of people, the bishops said. “We call on our responsible leaders in government, in the private sector and all those who harbor intentions of mining our region to listen to the voices of our people: ‘Bring back the Beautiful Land we had once; STOP MINING IN OUR REGION,'" the bishops said in a statement issued on Oct. 22. Signing the pastoral statement titled “A Call to Stop Mining in Eastern Visayas Region" were Palo Archbishop Jose Palma, Catarman Bishop Emmanuel Trance, Borongan Bishop Crispin Varquez, Maasin Bishop Precioso Cantillas, Calbayog Bishop Isabelo Abarquez, and Naval Bishop Felomino Bactol. Excerpts of the statement were posted Wednesday on the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines news site. While government and private firms have shown keen interest in developing the mining industry in the territory, the bishops criticized the “misplaced priorities" of some local leaders, accusing them of acting “more as agents of the mining firms rather than agents of the people." They noted several mining permits for exploration and mining production sharing agreements (MPSAs) have been issued in many parts of the region’s islands of Samar, Leyte and Biliran even as Leyte's provincial board recently mulled a possible moratorium on pre-mining and mining activities until disagreements are resolved. The bishops voiced alarm on the impact of extractive industries especially on the islands of Manicani and Homonhon in Eastern Samar and Batag in Northern Samar, which they say are threatened by destructive mining operations. “As shepherds of our flock, it is our collective sentiments that the continuing drive for development of the Eastern Visayas region anchored on mining as well as other extractive economic pursuits, only reinforce the irreversible trend of permanently damaging nature's endowments. As a consequence, the many lines of opportunities upon which our people can draw their life sustenance will definitely be threatened immensely," they said. Previous experiences show that the social costs and irreversible damage on the environment and livelihood caused by mining far outweigh its perceived economic benefits, and these should have imparted lessons to everyone, the bishops claimed. Citing the case of the depleted Bagacay mine in Hinabangan, Western Samar, the prelates said the mining firm left the area devastated and the river poisoned after having extracted all minerals from the ground. “The people who had high hopes of being lifted from their sorry state of poverty were left to fend for themselves and grapple with the realities that there are no more fertile grounds to grow their food or natural river systems to catch the fishes for their day's meal," they said. The prelates also noted the decade-long struggle of communities in Manicani, Homonhon and Batag islands, which have to cope with the effects of mining on the environment and local livelihoods.—JV, GMANews.TV