Catholic bishops support bill in Congress declaring Davao Oriental ‘mining-free zone’

November 9, 2022

Catholic bishops in the southern Philippine region of Davao have expressed support for a proposed law that will declare the province of Davao Oriental a “mining-free zone.”

“In the mighty name of the creator … pass a law declaring the Province of Davao Oriental and other Davao Region Provinces a mining-free zone,” read a joint statement issued by six bishops.

House Bill 1124 seeks to ban mining, both small large-scale operations including quarrying in the entire province.

In their statement, the bishops said they cannot allow the destruction of the environment to go on “without staging a staunch defense for and in behalf of our common home.”

“In this sacred and morally-binding context, we express our hope, our plea, indeed, our demand, that we all should care for the environment from which we derive our existence,” they said.

The joint statement, which was released November 7, was signed by Archbishop Romulo Valles of Davao with his auxiliary bishop, George Rimando, Bishop Abel Apigo of Mati, Bishop Guillermo Afable of Digos, and Bishop Medil Aseo of Tagum.

Citing records from the Mines and Geosciences Bureau, the statement stated that 39 mining permits have been granted to several mining firms covering around 59,976 hectares of land in the area.

The bishops pointed out that the supposed economic benefits from mining cannot compensate for the harmful costs to the environment and the larger community.

“While the investment appears to be tectonic in billions, only a pittance of that benefits local communities for the short term while harming the larger community in the long term,” they said.

Davao Oriental is home to Mount Hamiguitan Range Wildlife Sanctuary, a UNESCO declared heritage site, and the protected seascape of Pujada Bay.

The province is likewise host to thriving heritage and cultural tradition from its Mandaya and Mansaka indigenous peoples.

The bishops called on the Senate to also come up with their version of the bill “to fast track the protection of the Province of Davao Oriental and other Davao Region Provinces from mining activities.”

“We amplify the call for the communities affected by mining to stand our ground in defense of our common home,” they said.

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