During the general assembly of the two sections of the Conference of the Association of Major Religious Superiors in the Philippines, the tragic plight of the environment due to irresponsible mining in Palawan, particularly in Brooke’s Point, was brought to the delegates’ attention. A panel of environmental defenders from the affected areas addressed the members of the Conference and shared their experiences of the degradation of their land and seas due to the mining. This we find very disturbing. A collective call to action is urgently needed.
Many residents of Brooke’s Point are not taking these issues lightly. Collective actions by the deeply concerned folks protesting the entry of big mining companies have been undertaken. Unfortunately, these actions have resulted in legal cases filed against them. Other forms of harassment by the perpetrators of these mining activities have also been experienced by our sisters and brothers. Indeed, this deplorable situation is not only an affront to Brooke’s Point residents, but to the entire province of Palawan and the country as a whole.
Palawan is known to be the last frontier of our archipelago, but destructive mining has not spared this beautiful island. We strongly support our sisters and brothers in their courageous struggle and defense of the ancestral domain of the indigenous Palawenos, the rape of their forest due to the cutting of thousands of trees, and the poisoning of their oceans due to the toxic materials dumped in their waters.
The theme of our respective assemblies, “Enlarge the Space of your tent” from Isaiah 54:2, called us to go beyond our religious and spiritual concerns and open the ears of our hearts to the plight of the Filipino people. It reminded us once again that “the griefs and anxieties of the people especially those who are poor are the very griefs and anxieties of the followers of Christ” (Gaudium et Spes, 1). We do hear the anguish of the indigenous people, but more so the silent but painful cry of mother earth.
We believe the claims of the indigenous people, local residents, environmental defenders and advocates that this mining activity is not only bringing irreversible damage to the protected land and natural resources, but also irreparable harm to health, life and culture of the people themselves.
We are alarmed by the violent response of the mining security personnel and the police against the anti-mining advocates. We are concerned of the harassment and red-tagging against environmental defenders whose only concern is their legitimate right to protect and defend their ancestral domain from wanton destruction. These mining corporations lose their legitimacy by undermining already the requirements for dialogue, wanton disrespect of the local government and the rule of law. By their strategies of intimidation, they show their true face of not being interested to improve the lives of the people, but the extraction of riches that benefit only them.
Moreover, we call on the Celestial Nickel Mining Exploration Corp. and the Ipilan Nickel Corp., the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, the local and national government leaders to respect the protected ancestral area of the indigenous people of Brooke’s Point by the National Integrated Protected Area System which was reiterated through the writ of Kalikasan issued by the Supreme Court in August this year. We are saddened to know that the very institution mandated to protect our environment and natural resources are silent and indifferent to the rights of the indigenous people of Brooke’s Point.
Palawan is a paradise! People can survive from tourism, agriculture and fisheries. However, these mining activities not only in Brooke’s Point but all over Palawan are hurting their land, life and culture. Do not let greed destroy it. Defend this beautiful land!
Ecological concerns unite us. Our encounter with the concerned people of Brooke’s Point made us realize that together we can be united in our care for our common home. In good faith and good will, we forge and support our indigenous peoples’ communities, the ecumenical groups, church people, legal practitioners and local politicians have come together to protect our environment. This is a beautiful sign of walking and journeying together, a synodal journey united for the good of all and for our common home.
As we appeal for prayers and material assistance for the indigenous people and communities, we call on everyone to save our forests and seas.