Philippine bishops call for greater action on calamities

Natural disasters are a call for conversion and deeper compassion, they say
Philippine bishops call for greater action on calamities

Evacuees displaced by the eruption of the Taal volcano gather inside an evacuation center. (Photo: Ed Jones/AFP

Catholic bishops in the Philippines have called for the construction of more permanent evacuation shelters and better investment in disaster prevention in the wake of a series of natural calamities to hit the country in recent months.

In a pastoral statement issued at the end of their plenary meeting in Manila on Jan. 27, the bishops also urged the government to allocate funds for disaster monitoring agencies.
"Preparing for disasters, like stocking up on food supplies and necessities, upgrading relief and rescue equipment, and the training of personnel deserve more [budget]," said the bishops.

The statement, signed by Archbishop Romulo Valles, president of the bishops' conference, acknowledged government efforts in helping those affected by a recent volcanic eruption that displaced thousands of people.

"These calamities can be opportunities for grace and blessings," read the statement, adding that natural disasters are God’s reminder for people to take care of the environment.

"We appeal for the construction of permanent evacuation centers in the most vulnerable areas." 

The bishops said the calamities that hit the Philippines call for conversion and deeper compassion, saying that the disasters "can be God’s way of purifying us and forging us as people."

They said that although not all calamities are caused by human activities, some are proven to have been caused by people, such as floods and droughts.

"We should change our ways so as not to contribute to climate change which brings about the ravages of nature. These calamities call for conversion. These calamities appeal for deeper compassion," the bishops said, adding that disasters also call for generosity with one another.

"We can control our wants so that we can respond more to the needs of others." 

Archbishop Valles commended the generosity of the Filipino people to victims of the eruption of Taal volcano on Jan. 12.

"We have been witnesses to the enthusiasm with which other Filipinos have responded not only because of pity but because of Christian solidarity," wrote the archbishop.

This week residents of several towns surrounding the volcano were allowed to return to their homes after seismologists lowered the volcano's alert status. Taal volcano is continuing a weak spewing of steam-laden plumes, according to volcanologists.

A total of 394,094 residents from several towns were affected by the volcanic eruption that resulted in a lockdown of several areas in the provinces of Batangas and Cavite.

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