By Robin Gomes
A Catholic bishop in the central Philippines has expressed "deep concern" over a plan to build a coal-fired power plant on the “frontier” island of Palawan.
Bishop Socrates Mesiona, the Vicar Apostolic of Puerto Princesa says 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," the bishop says.
He was reacting to the recent granting of an environmental compliance certificate for a 15 MW coal plant in Palawan. 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.
Palawan – the “last frontier”
The Vicariate Apostolic of Puerto Princesa is in the island province of Palawan, which is called the “last ecological frontier” of the Philippines because of its rich biodiversity and natural wonders. The island still retains more than 50 percent of its original forest cover and harbours 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.
Bishop Mesiona argues that "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."
Pro-environment groups said building a coal plant would be a mistake because such projects are being shut down in other countries.
Bishop Mesiona is calling 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."
The bishops of the Philippines have taken up the protection of the environment as a serious mission, in response to the call of Pope Francis in his encyclical, “Laudato Si”.
Call to ecological conversion
The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) released a major pastoral letter on July 16 entitled, “An urgent call for ecological conversion, hope in the face of climate emergency”.
Signed by CBCP president, Archbishop Romulo Valles of Davao, the letter invites Catholics to ecological conversion, listen to the cry of the Earth and the poor and act together to mitigate the ill effects of climate change.
The bishops spoke about several challenges facing the country, such as irresponsible mining, building dams and the growing dependence on fossil fuel-based energy such as coal.
Early this year, the Vicariate Apostolic of Puerto Princesa hit its target of planting 10,000 trees in a protected area in partnership with tribal communities. (Source: UCANEWS)