Philippine Archbishop Ramon Arguelles of Lipa joined politicians, media personalities and civil society groups in campaigning against mining and coal plant operations in Verde Island Passage, dubbed as the world's "center of the center of marine biodiversity." "We have been fighting for this issue for so long, but we have always been ignored," Arguelles told ucanews.com on July 23. “[Mining companies] have been bullying the poor for so long," he said. The archbishop said mining companies have been claiming that they have shared in the improvement of the economy "but it's only progress for the few and suffering to the rest." Clemente Bautista, national coordinator of Kalikasan People's Network for the Environment, said the Verde Island Passage in Batangas province "is of international and intergenerational importance yet currently threatened by different large-scale mining threats." "We hope to raise this concern and gather support for the Filipino people’s struggles to protect one of the world’s richest marine biodiversity corridors," said Bautista. "Let us not be fooled by these mining companies," said Gerry Arances, national coordinator of the Philippine Movement for Climate Justice. Arguelles called on the government to "act immediately" by saying no to mining and coal plants. "Not a moratorium," he said, "because that would only temporarily stop the problem." "Let us put a stop to this permanently as it is clearly against our nature and the human life," the archbishop said. Pope Francis' recent encyclical "Laudato si’" called on the faithful to "replace all use of highly polluting fossil fuels most especially coal without delay." The pope "did not say that out of the blue…. He knows that this is happening and he is making it a worldwide issue," Arguelles said. Activist Teddy Casino, a former legislator, said the battle against mining "is not a joke." He warned that the people "will be forced to break apart and will be bribed, threatened, and bullied." "It is important that all sectors join forces in this fight," he said, adding that environmental activists who have opposed mining have been killed in the past. Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment announced that it will raise the "specter of large-scale mining interests" in the upcoming International People’s Conference on Mining next week. Some 140 participants from 28 different countries are expected to attend the conference of mining-affected communities, indigenous peoples, church workers, lawyers, legislators, artists, alternative media practitioners, environmental activists, and scientists. Bautista said that while the people’s movement has recently gained ground through its initial victory in the revocation of the local government’s endorsement of mining operation in Batangas, "threats ... still abound."
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He said the threat of big mines is present across the entire Coral Triangle, a marine biodiversity corridor that straddles Indonesia, Philippines, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, and Timor-Leste that is host to no less than 500 coral reef species.