THE Catholic Church’s advocacy arm National Secretariat for Social Action (Nassa)/Caritas Philippines and the Philippine Misereor Partnership Inc. (PMPI) have launched its nationwide caravan to call on President Rodrigo Duterte to undertake “proactive stance” against environmental abuses in the country.

Dubbed as “Salakyag para sa Sangnilikha 2018,” the event will serve as “pressure point” for Duterte to address environmental issues it is currently facing like illegal logging, large-scale mining, and coal mining activities, among others.

This year’s theme is on “Protect mother Earth! Defend inter-generational people’s rights to a balanced and healthful ecology. Recognize and uphold the Rights of Nature!”

The caravan kicked-off in Zamboanga and passed through central and northwestern Mindanao, Leyte, Sorsogon, Legaspi, and southern Tagalog until it reaches Manila on Tuesday, June 5, in time for “World Environmental Day.”

"Many people do not realize that we are one with nature, and therefore we are responsible in pushing for the Rights of Nature, and must recognize that nature is finite which could not cope with human demands,” said Fr. Odick Calumpiano, PMPI co-convenor for Visayas and director of Borongan Social Action Center.

“To act now, so that the generations can also enjoy healthy ecology is an important oath in life,” the priest said in a statement.

The groups highlighted the effects of illegal logging when Typhoon Vinta hit the town of Ipil, Zamboanga Sibugay and the rest of the Zamboanga peninsula in December 2017 where over hundred people also died.

"Right after the flooding, we discovered layers of logs washed away at the back of the church, trapped between the rubber trees. If not for those trees, it could have flown straight to town, and destroyed structures and more lives,” recalled Fr. Gilbert Gente, pastoral director of the Diocese of Ipil as they aggressively pushed their campaign against illegal logging, in a statement.

The Subanen, an indigenous tribe living in the uplands of Zamboanga peninsula, also joined the group’s call against the massive destruction of the environment brought by coal-powered plants.

“The Lumads, who are not new to environmental issues, have voiced out their resistance to the persisting repercussions of development, as a result of the creation of mining firms; illegal logging activities; and coal-fired power plants (CFPP). All activities have now caused immense detrimental impacts on health, lifestyle, and issues primarily on human rights,” humanitarian worker Denvie Balidoy reported.

"Environment and civil society groups have denounced the continual effort of constructing and operating coal-fired power plants in Ozamiz City (300MW), Kauswagan of Lanao del Norte (540MW) and Kiwalan of Iligan City (20MW)," she added.

According to Balidoy, who also worked for PMPI, these power plants wreak distraught impacts to surrounding waterways, where tens of thousands of small-scale fishers in northwestern Mindanao can be found and dependent for means of livelihood. (SunStar Philippines)