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Columbans support anti-mining protests in Philippines

protesters trying to block road

protesters trying to block road

Columban priests and sisters have joined peaceful anti-mining protests on the southern Philippine island of Mindanao. In fact, the whole Catholic Church in Zamboanga Del Sur province has formally declared its full support of picketing to prevent mineral exploration as a prelude to mining. In a manifesto issued on 18 October, the priests, sisters and laity of the diocese of Pagadian, which covers the entire mineral-rich Zamboanga del Sur region, described the effort to prevent the possible wide-scale destruction of the Pinukis mountain range as “a laudable display of stewardship of God’s creation”.

The pickets began on 5 October when villagers discovered the presence of test drill equipment near the forests of Mount Pinukis. The protesters set up tents near the road where the equipment would be transported to block any movement. Parishes sent groups to represent them.

On 19 October, Fr Frank Nally - an Irish Columban who used to work in Mindanao - wrote the following letter to the President of the Philippines, Benigno Aquino, on behalf of the London-based Working Group on Mining in the Philippines:

 ‘It is sad to note that after so much effort in 1987/1988 to stop the destruction of the tropical forest and biodiversity of the vital watersheds of Mount Pinukis in the Municipality of Midsalip, in the centre of  the Zamboanga peninsula, the people again have to resort to a picket to stop mineral exploration in 2010.

You would have hoped that the years of protest against the eight exploration and mining tenements and continued dedicated efforts to preserve the integrity of the environment by the Church, farmers and indigenous peoples, would have led to efforts being heeded. However, they and their environment are continually sacrificed to satisfy the destructive greed of a few politicians. The efforts and actions of the church and peoples to combat corruption through the courts and their pleas and letters to those in authority continue to be ignored by the Philippine government at all levels.

Hopefully, at last your government will show that there is a real commitment to the peoples’ welfare and to the many international conventions the Philippine Government has signed to conserve the real treasures of the Philippines that provide and protect the livelihoods of the Filipino nation.

Please also see earlier reports especially Philippines - Mining or Food? and maps at http://philippinesminingorfood.blogspot.com/