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Philippine bishop issues appeal to save 'last frontier'

Plans for a coal plant on the ecologically rich island of Palawan will be an environmental disaster, green groups say

 Roy Lagarde, Manila

Roy Lagarde, Manila

Updated: July 31, 2019 03:21 AM GMT
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Philippine bishop issues appeal to save 'last frontier'

Bishop Socrates Mesiona of Puerto Princesa, right, helps in the planting of 10,000 trees in a protected area of Palawan in response to Pope Francis' call to care for the environment. (Photo courtesy of the Apostolic Vicariate of Puerto Princesa) 

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A Catholic bishop in the central Philippines expressed "deep concern" over a plan to build a coal-fired power plant on the “frontier” island of Palawan.

Bishop Socrates Mesiona of Puerto Princesa said the government should reassess the project because of its possible negative impact on the environment.

"We appeal for a reconsideration to balance economic progress with the integrity of creation and the common welfare of our community," said the prelate.

"Because Palawan is considered a beautiful island and the 'last frontier,' it demands from us a more serious call to take care of our God-given ecological home," he said.

The bishop was reacting to the recent granting of an environmental compliance certificate for a 15 GW coal plant in Palawan, also known as the country’s "last ecological frontier."

A private firm plans to build a facility in the town of Narra as part of its 25 MW contract with the Palawan Electric Cooperative.

Pro-environment groups said building a coal plant would be a mistake because such projects are being shut down in other countries.

"We also call on stakeholders to look into it from the vantage point of a long-term effect, on the basis of objective truth, and the common good," said Bishop Mesiona.

The island province of Palawan is called the country’s last ecological frontier because of its rich biodiversity, as well as natural wonders.

Conservation International describes it as the Philippines' "last biodiversity frontier" because it still retains more than 50 percent of its original forest cover and harbors vast stretches of old growth forests.

Of its 1,489,626 total land area, 692,288 hectares are covered by forest.

The island province is a complex ecosystem that serves as a refuge to more than a hundred marine and many other indigenous species of flora and fauna.

Early this year, the Vicariate of Puerto Princesa hit its target of planting 10,000 trees in a protected area in partnership with tribal communities.

The activity was in response to Pope Francis' call to care for the environment through his encyclical Laudato Si'.

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines earlier called for "ecological conversion" to mitigate the ill-effects of climate change.

In a pastoral letter on "climate emergency," the church leaders outlined the issues facing the country, including irresponsible mining, the building dams, and the growing dependence on fossil fuel-based energy such as coal.

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