Tuesday, February 14, 2012

CDO archbishop reiterates call for mining moratorium

CAGAYAN DE ORO City, Feb. 14, 2012—The highest official of Cagayan de Oro archdiocese reiterated his calls for a moratorium on mining even as he hit claims that mining has not contributed to the devastation wrought by tropical storm Washi (Sendong) last December

Mining industry defenders, like Mayor Vicente Emano and most members of the City Council, admitted that he had issued “special permits” to mine several hectares in the city’s hinterlands and have not suspended these operations despite snowballing calls for him to halt theses operations.
“I admit I have granted special permits, the law allows me to do that. But [the mining operations] must not destroy the ecology,” Emano said, adding that he will only order the stop of all mining operations in the city if a study will be conducted immediately “showing that mining operations destroyed the environment, then we will immediately order the cancellation of the permits.”
But Archbishop Antonio J. Ledesma, SJ, DD, who have long been a staunch defender of the environment and has repeatedly called for a stop to all mining operations in the city and in the country scored the seeming “business as usual” attitude of city government officials following the devastation of Washi.
“It is unconscionable for the city officials to adapt a ‘business as usual’ attitude for mining permits to continue,” Ledesma said in his homily during the Eucharistic celebration at the St. Augustine Metropolitan Cathedral marking the opening of the “DCM and Bishops’ Forum on Typhoon Sendong and its challenges for Mindanao” as well as a thanksgiving celebration for the 60th anniversary of the archdiocese.
Ledesma urged for a “multi-sectoral monitoring team [to be] allowed to verify the extent of these mining activities whether small scale or large scale.”
During last week’s Joint Municipal and Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council at the Provincial Capitol, Misamis Oriental Environment and Natural Resources officer Conrado “Dodong” Sescon and the Philippine Air Force showed graphic pictures of the damage by mining activities on the city’s and province’s mountains.
Raoul Geollegue, former regional executive director of the Environment department in Northern Mindanao (Region X), lambasted claims that hydraulic mining rampant in the Iponan River cannot be stopped because of socio-economic considerations.
Claims of livelihood and economic windfall to the city from the local mining industry prompted Ledesma to issue a call for the city government to account to the public the true extent of the industry’s contribution to the economy.
“With that point, there is a need for a full disclosure of the identities of these mining firms, their alloted area and contribution to the local economy,” he said.
Ledesma pointed to two factors that caused the flooding in the city as early as 2009 — natural and human.
The Jesuit prelate also scored the fact that the city government under Emano had allowed families for decades “to stay along the river’s own waterways.” He was referring to Isla de Oro, an island formed in the middle of the Cagayan de Oro River by the accumulation of river silts where almost 1,000 families lived and were swept by rampaging floodwaters on the night of December 16 at the height of tropical storm Washi.
Ledesma said this could have been prevented had the city government had foresight and good city planning.
“Disaster preparedness and long-term city planning could have mitigated the dire consequences of allowing households to stay along the river’s own waterways,” he stressed.
The Emano administration was repeatedly condemned by critics and the opposition for its alleged “leaderless and disarrayed” response to Washi and its insistence that the mayor cannot prevent people from living in Isla de Oro because of the people’s hard-headedness.
A group, the Save CDO Movement, even initiated a campaign to recall Emano for his handling of the city’s affairs, especially following the Washi tragedy.
The environment watchdog Task Force Macajalar (TFM) had earlier summed up Washi’s damage as a result of a combination of “environmental degradation plus climate change plus bad governance minus an effective and functional disaster risk reduction program.
Ledesma reiterated that “transparency and accountability are hallmarks of good governance” as he urged the institutionalization of “participatory citizenry on one hand and responsive government on the other hand.”
To reports that some members of the local clergy are using their pulpits to play politics in support of the recall campaign, the archbishop stressed that “the archdiocese does not engage in partisan politics. The pulpit should be used to proclaim the word of God and not the words of men” even as he appealed “to all authorities and all Kagay-anons to allow the democratic process to prevail in the responsible exercise of basic freedoms of speech assembly and participation in public affairs.”
Bishop Jose A. Cabantan of the Malaybalay Diocese also reiterated calls for the enactment into law of the Alternative Mining Bill (AMB) even as he stressed that, despite claims to the contrary, “there is still no responsible mining” in the Philippines.
Cabantan, who once served as Ledesma’s director for Social Action prior to his elevation to the bishopric, said that it is always the Church’s stand to “protect the integrity of creation.”
However, he admitted that this cannot be done by the Church alone, or by the government alone. (Bong D. Fabe)


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