ASIA/PHILIPPINES – Maintenance of the “common house” in eastern Davao: making it a “mining-free zone”
Davao (Agenzia Fides) – “Every Catholic, in conscience, recalling the Encyclical Laudato Sì of Pope Francis, which promotes “the care of the Common House”, cannot approve of this operation of destruction of our territory by the logic of profit” . This is how Fr. Alfe Alimbon, Director of Social Communications of the diocese of Mati, on the island of Mindanao, in the south of the Philippines, presents to Agenzia Fides the petition of the local Church asking for the cessation of mining projects in the territory. The declaration of the diocese of Mati was also disseminated and approved by the faithful, academics and students of the other dioceses of the eastern province of Davao (Davao, Digos and Tagum): political representatives, members of civil society and ecclesial communities call on the governments to declare the entire eastern province of Davao a “mining-free zone”.
The initiative was born after the mining giant Asiaticus Management Corporation (AMCOR) announced its intention to carry out its nickel mining project in Pujada Bay. As Agenzia Fides reports, an important group of academics from the Oriental State University of Davao, who opposed the project, disseminated the petition of the diocese at the university and in schools. The letter calls for the protection of the Hamiguita mountain range and its vast UNESCO World Heritage Site, threatened by the encirclement of large mining operators. Corazon Malanyaon, governor of the eastern province of Davao, also pointed out that “the Mount Hamiguitan Range Wildlife Sanctuary is our pride, we will not let mining deface it.”
A team of researchers from the University of Davao has published the results of a study which confirms the alarming levels of contamination in Pujada Bay, with the presence of pathogenic microorganisms and contamination by ‘Escherichia Coli’ exceeding far from the norm.
Researchers also fear that the accident that occurred in January 2022 could be repeated, when, due to the excavation of the soil, a landslide and the burial of the river system destroyed a large area of land intended for the cultivation of the rice in the town of Banaybanay.
“The province of Davao Oriental is witnessing the deterioration of its environmental conditions due to massive mining and logging, with deep soil erosion”, reads the letter sent to Fides. At least 4,778 hectares of mining concessions straddle the five major drainage systems and watersheds that flow into Pujada Bay or Davao Gulf. “These freshwater streams are the main source of water supply for the communities living in the area.”
The province’s Catholic bishops have come together to formally express their support for a bill (House Bill 1124) declaring the eastern province of Davao a “mining-free zone”, “to defend our common home”, they say. “In the mighty name of God the Creator, we express our hope and supplication, so that we can all take care of the environment from which our existence derives,” they write in a letter signed by the Archbishop of Davao, Romulo Valles. ; by the bishop of Mati, Abel Apigo; by Bishop Guillermo Afable, of the Diocese of Digos; and by Medil Aseo, Bishop of Tagum.
The statement cites with concern the 39 mining permits granted by the government to several companies covering some 60,000 hectares of land, to extract nickel, copper, gold and chromite. “The alleged economic benefits derived from mining will undoubtedly not be able to compensate for the harmful costs for the environment and local communities”, underline the prelates, referring in particular to the cultural heritage of the Mandaya and Mansaka indigenous peoples, who see their devastated ecosystem.
For this reason, the bishops welcome the bill 1124 of the House of Representatives: the text, citing scientific studies, affirms that in the east of Davao, due to the particular conformation of the territory and the fault line, continued mining risks triggering earthquakes and tsunamis. In light of these studies, the bill introduced in the Philippine Congress in 2019 – and yet to be passed by Parliament – calls for a ban on all new mining operations and activities, allowing existing contracts to expire naturally, without being renewed or prolonged. (AP) (Agenzia Fides, 9/11/2022)