Environment 'victory' in Philippines bodes ill for mining firms

Homonhon Island to be declared 'critical habitat' for endangered species.
Environment 'victory' in Philippines bodes ill for mining firms

The Island of Homonhon in the central Philippines is home to endangered species of flora and fauna. (Photo by Mark Saludes)

A faith-based group has claimed victory in a campaign against mining after the Philippine government agreed to declare an island in the central part of the country as a "critical habitat" for endangered species.

The government’s move stemmed from the result of a validation process conducted by government's Environment Department and the Philippine Misereor Partnership Incorporated (PMPI) on Homonhon Island.

PMPI is a social development network of people’s organizations, faith-based groups, and Misereor, the overseas development agency of the Catholic Church in Germany.

The island of Homonhon has been, for years, a flashpoint in a conflict between residents and mining companies over environmental protection.

Over the years, its biodiversity has been said to be at risk with three mining companies operating on the island, which is believed to be home to some endangered wildlife.

In 2017, island residents submitted a petition to declare their community a critical habitat after a team of experts commissioned by PMPI conducted a watershed assessment.

The study found, among others, a Philippine cockatoo, which is listed in the International Union for Conservation of Nature as "critically endangered species."

The identification is the highest risk category that can be assigned to species on the IUCN Red List.

A separate study by the government found that the population of other endangered birds has decreased in recent years.

"We are happy the [Environment Department] has proposed more than what the community has requested," said Father Juderick Calumpiano, social action director of Borongan Diocese.

The priest, who heads the PMPI in the central Philippines, said to declare Homonhon Island a critical habitat will protect species living on the island.

"The effort to stop mining should now be urgent," said Father Calumpiano.

"We recommended officially declare the island as a critical habitat as soon as possible to preserve and protect Homonhon's critically endangered species," read a statement from the Environment Department.

Homonhon Island has played an important role in the spread of the Catholic faith in the Philippines because it was where the first Spanish missionaries landed when they arrived on March 17, 1521.

The island was one of the worst hit by Typhoon Haiyan that hit the Philippines in 2013, leaving more than 6,000 people dead.

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