BUTUAN CITY -- In commemoration of Earth Day, hundreds of people from different socio-civic and environmental groups nationwide marched on the streets in this city to protest against mining interests.
“This activity is part of our commemoration of Earth Day, so we are taking this stand in solidarity with other environmental groups here in the Philippines and in the entire world with the message of protecting our environment is a must. We see that mining posses the biggest threat to our environment here in the Philippines, especially here in Caraga, which is considered as the mining capital of the Philippines,” said Jaybee Garganera, national coordinator for Alyansa Tigil Mina.
Garganera said that the protest is part of their 3-day general assembly held in Father Saturnino Urios University in Butuan City.
“The assembly’s purpose is to talk and have effective plan of actions towards the next 5-years of our environmental campaigns. It is significant that we have this assembly here since it is the capital of mining in the country and to talk with the community’s affected and other organizations in Mindanao so that the plans for our advocacy would be clear and strengthened,” said Garganera.
Garganera added while green advocates acknowledge that mining minerals has a role to play in our industrialization, it is important to make sure that those mining the land are strictly following the laws, and mining firms respect the rights of the local government and its people.
“Unfortunately it is sad to say that wither we do an economic study, a social impact study or an environmental audit, the existing mining projects have not been able to pass,” Uy said.
For those who participated in the assembly, their presence is to give solidarity to the affected communities of Surigao del Sur, Surigao del Norte, Agusan del Norte and the rest of Caraga Region to let them know and feel that they are not alone in their struggles.
“We have a new reality, we have climate change and the worsening weather situation, the way we see it is that the protection and conservation effort on our forest should be strengthened in order to adopt to climate change and for us to be prepared against disasters,” Garganera concluded.
Reverend Father Edu Gariguez of the Catholic Bishop's Conference National Secretariat for Social Action who has been spearheading the environmental fight in Mindoro pointed out the need for action.
“Pope Francis has reiterated that if our natural environment will be damaged, the people will suffer. That is why our first call is to save and protect our beautiful environment of our country... It is not right that while a few are enjoying the wealth of the land, most of the people are suffering in poverty. To quote Lopez, we cannot allow an economy that is making a few richer while it is also causing the poor and poverty condition of the many,” said Gariguez.
During the program, several of those who shared their point of views also expressed their support and call for the appointment of Regina Lopez and she would finally be confirmed as the Department of Environment and Natural Resources secretary.
Published in the SunStar Cagayan de Oro newspaper on April 21, 2017.