The Diocese of Borongan will gather stakeholders in a dialogue to tackle the present ecological crisis and large-scale mining industry in the region next month.
Father James Abella, director of the diocesan social action center, said the summit aims “to consolidate the community and the concerned sectors” in the movement against destructive extraction.
“We’ll not just talk about the impacts of mining but we also would like people attending the summit to commit against it. We invited people from civil society and the government,” he said.
The environmental summit will be held on Homonhon Island, a 20-kilometer-long island in the municipality of Guiuan, on November 5.
Father Abella said the position of the Church against large-scale mining operations in the region “has not changed,” adding, “We are reaffirming that stand.”
For years, the island of Homonhon has been a battleground between residents and mining companies operating on the island over environmental protection.
In April 2020, residents of the island denounced the continuous operation of a mining firm amidst the lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The country’s Mines and Geosciences Bureau has earlier approved the loading of chromite ore on a China-bound ship.
In a pastoral letter issued in April this year, Bishop Crispin Varquez of Borongan said there is no history of responsible mining in the region, adding that “local experience provides enough evidence.”
The prelate said Homonhon Island is host to mining operations for 40 years “yet our people there have remained poor or grown even poorer.”
“Trees have been burned down. The whole ecosystem has been adversely affected. The island is greatly denuded. Sources of potable water have been near-depleted,” said the prelate.
The prelate also said the mining industry has caused grave social impacts including division among the people in Homonhon.
Father Abella said the fact that the island of Homonhon is a historical island as the site of the first Philippine landing of Ferdinand Magellan, “the country must protect it from destructive activities.”
The island has an important role in the history of the Catholic faith in the Philippines because it was where the first Spanish missionaries landed when they arrived on March 17, 1521.