A view of nickel ore stockpiles in Sta Cruz Zambales, in the Philippines A view of nickel ore stockpiles in Sta Cruz Zambales, in the Philippines 

Laudato Si’ Week: Philippine Bishop calls for renewed mining ban

As the Church launches Laudato Si’ Week, a Bishop in the Philippines decries a government decision to lift a mining ban, saying poor communities will pay the price and see none of the gain.

By Devin Watkins

The Church-wide celebration of Laudato Si’ Week got underway on Sunday, with Pope Francis inviting everyone to take part in the care of our common home.

He said the initiative seeks to “help people to listen better to the cry of the Earth and the cry of the poor.”

Laudato Si’ Week, which runs from 16-25 May, is promoted by the Dicastery for the Promotion of Integral Human Development, the Global Catholic Climate Movement, and Caritas Internationalis.

It is the main event in the special Laudato Si’ Year, which marks 5 years since the publication of the Pope’s encyclical on the Care of our Common Home.

Mining in the Philippines

As the Week got started, Filipino Bishop Broderick Pabillo took the opportunity to speak out against a government decision to allow new mining deals.

The Bishop, who acts as the Apostolic Administrator of Manila Archdiocese, told the faithful in St. Joseph Parish on Sunday that it is the poor who will suffer as a result of the decision.

“In our current situation, it will not benefit the country, but only just a few,” said Bishop Pabillo.

Filling government coffers

President Rodrigo Duterte signed an Executive Order on 14 April, lifting a 9-year moratorium on new mining deals.

His spokesman said some US$4 billion-worth of capital investment deals are in the pipeline, which will generate around $800 million in local taxes.

Bishop Pabillo lamented the government allowing more environmental destruction in order to fill public coffers.

“They really need the money for the elections [due for 9 May 2022],” said the Bishop. “And these big mining firms are the ones giving away money in exchange for getting permits,” he alleged.

More human-rights violations

Bishop Pabillo also warned that more mining operations will lead to an uptick in human rights violations, especially against poorer and indigenous communities.

“We will again see more human rights violations, red-tagging of indigenous people, farmers fishermen, and environmentalists that are against mining,” he said.

No economic gain for the poor

The Church in the Philippines has already spoken out against the lifting of the mining ban.

When the decision was announced in mid-April, the Director of Caritas Philippines urged the government to reconsider.

“We are in the countryside, and we are seeing no economic improvement in the lives of the people from mining,” said Bishop Jose Collin Bagaforo.

He said mining companies have only left behind a trail of “ill-effects to the local ecosystems [which] still threaten communities who gained nothing from the operations.”

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17 May 2021, 11:36