Archbishop Jose Palma of Cebu has expressed his opposition to the proposed 174-hectare reclamation project that threatens four marine protected areas in Dumaguete City.
In a statement issued on August 28, the prelate said development should have “a human face… one that adheres to and primarily attends to the general welfare of the people first and foremost before anything else.”
He said the Church is “not against development as it is,” but stressed that it “cannot be undertaken to cater and benefit only a few.”
Archbishop Palma said he supports the faithful and the clergy of the Diocese of Dumaguete, headed by Bishop Julito Cortes, in their fight against the destructive project.
The Diocese of Dumaguete is one of the suffragans of the Metropolitan Archdiocese of Cebu.
In July, church and pro-environment groups raised concerns over the P23-billion reclamation project that they said would “bury” the remaining marine ecosystem in the city.
The reclamation project will pave the way for the construction of a “Smart City” in Dumaguete and will affect four marine protected areas, including “more than 200 species of fish.”
Bishop Cortes has warned that an “underwater cemetery” will replace the city’s vibrant coastal ecosystem if the project pushes through.
“Reclaiming 174 hectares of this littoral zone will logically create 174 hectares of underwater cemeteries,” said the prelate.
He said the project that promotes “economic exchange and profit” would lead to an “ecological crisis.”
“The delicate littoral ecosystem off the coast of Dumaguete City, is a common good that cannot be adequately safeguarded or promoted by market forces,” said Bishop Cortes.
The city government has already issued a Notice of Award to the project proponent on June 23.
The project aims to develop a “5G-equipped ‘Smart City’ island” with commercial and residential infrastructures.
Archbishop Palma reminded the public that development should “be the price and pride of humanity when their rights, dignity, and wellness are respected and promoted.”
The prelate re-echoed Pope Francis’ appeal to all of humanity “to take care of the earth – our Common Home,” in the pontiff’s encyclical Laudato Si.
He said the encyclical clearly defines one of Pope Francis’ passionate advocacies, which is to stop the devastation of Mother Earth.
“[The planet’s] natural resources have been depleted badly through the years because of man’s indifference to and deliberate destruction of God’s creation,” said Palma.
He said the loss of biodiversity is “a grave concern that weighs heavily” on why many sectors of society, especially the religious sector, oppose the planned reclamation project.