A Catholic bishop in the northern Philippines has urged Catholics to oppose black sand mining following the release of a study, which says coastal communities in the region are slowly sinking. The study, conducted by the State University of New York
and the University of California
, revealed that several areas in the northern Philippines "are projected to be underwater" in 30 years. "The study is a confirmation of a warning made as early as 2009 when black sand mining operations started," said Archbishop Sergio Utleg of Tuguegarao. The study titled "Characterization of Black Sand Mining Activities and their Environmental Impacts in the Philippines Using Remote Sensing
" was released in January. It warned "several coastal areas will be at sea level … in a few decades due to rapid subsidence." "Since subsidence likely continues to affect areas even decades after the cessation of mining activities ... temporal coverage will be critical to mitigate environmental and societal effects of black sand mining activities," the study said. It concluded that, "rapid subsidence results in high exposure to flooding and seasonal typhoons, and amplifies the effect of climate change–driven sea level rise." Archbishop Utleg expressed dismay that authorities "never cared to listen ... because of greed for money and thirst for power." As of early March, there were 54 existing mining tenements in at least four provinces in the northern region of Cagayan Valley. "We call on our politicians to exercise their duty and be at the service of their constituents," said Archbishop Utleg. He told ucanews.com that government officials initiated the mining operations six years ago "in the guise of dredging for sand and gravel." "The coastal areas of Cagayan Valley will have to suffer the indifference and lack of concern of local authorities," Archbishop Utleg said. Some 110,130 hectares of land are covered by approved mining tenements in the region, according to the archdiocese's Commission on Social Action. The Catholic Church "strongly seeks to cancel all existing mining permits that only plunders our natural resources,” said Father Manuel Vicente Catral, head of the church's social action body in Tuguegarao. Utleg urged Catholics to be "constantly vigilant, critical in stance, and to unite to voice their concerns" on issues that affect their lives.
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