Church groups join calls for a stop to destructive mining, especially in the southern Philippine region of Mindanao. (ucanews photo)
Two Catholic bishops in the southern Philippines have expressed support for calls to stop mining in the region and to hold mining companies accountable for destruction of the environment.
Bishops Cerilo Casicas of Marbel and Jose Colin Bagaforo of Kidapawan said destructive mining is a major concern that needs to be addressed with urgency.
A conference organized by the Philippine Misereor Partnership Inc. (PMPI) in Mindanao on Oct. 9 became a venue for dialogue between the bishops and people living in mining communities.
Bishop Casicas told the gathering that empowering communities should be a "primordial concern" of civil society groups.
He said the Church’s work on "the care for our common home" does not only rest on the bishops and the clergy but on laypeople as well.
Bishop Bagaforo, incoming head of the National Secretariat for Social Action, said the role of social action centers for the protection of the environment is "more important now than ever before."
The biannual meeting aims at building strong linkages between local communities and church leaders.
"This conference is special for the mining-affected communities," said Yoly Esguerra, national coordinator of PMPI. "[The people] were able to converse directly with their pastors and share how their lives have been negatively affected by mining."
Esguerra stressed the need for more dialogue and greater cooperation "given the extent of the environmental crisis we are facing today."
Bishop Casicas said the Church, through Pope Francis' encyclical Laudato si', has chosen to work for the protection of the Earth as "our common home."
"The work for justice and the work for the protection of the creation appears to us as constitutive to our work on evangelization," he said.
The bishops head dioceses that cover the US$5.9 billion Tampakan project, the largest known undeveloped copper and gold minefield in Southeast Asia operated by Sagittarius Mines, Inc.
The project has the potential to yield an average of 375,000 tons of copper and 360,000 ounces of gold in concentrate annually in 17 years, a study done by the company noted.
Discovered in the 1990s, the Tampakan project is hampered by the open-pit mining ban imposed by the local government of South Cotabato since 2010.