MAC/20: Mines and Communities

Pastoral Statement on 2007 Election and Environment Agenda

Published by MAC on 2007-05-08

Pastoral Statement on 2007 Election and Environment Agenda

Statement from Philippine Bishops

8th May 2007

Sisters and Brothers in Christ:

The Church, in fidelity to its mission, has the duty to proclaim the Gospel "to all creation" (Mk 16:15) and "to restore all things under Christ" (Eph 1:10).

As a nation, we are once again strengthening our democratic institution by participating in the forthcoming election in May 2007. The Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines, in its letter to the dioceses and parishes, dated 28 January 2007, has noted the especial importance of this political exercise: "Elections in a democracy allow citizens to choose freely those who will govern them and be instruments of a better life and a more just society for all."

It is saddening to note that historically, we have not been able to genuinely transform our political institution and electoral practices to make it truly at the service of the people, and to bring solutions to injustice and social problems. On the contrary, Philippine politics, the way it had been practiced, "has been the most hurtful of us as a people. It is possibly the biggest bane in our life as a nation and the most pernicious obstacle to our achieving full development . . . If we are what we are today - a country with a very great number of poor and powerless people - one reason is the way we have allowed politics to be debased and prostituted to the low level it is now (CBCP Pastoral Exhortation on Philippine Politics, 1997)

The Church responsibility of fulfilling its evangelizing mission in the sphere of politics is becoming even more an imperative, given the ever worsening situation of poverty, graft and corruption, and political crisis. It is the duty of the Church to emphasize that political authority "must always be exercised within the limits of morality and on behalf of the dynamically conceived common good . . . All of its dignity derives from its being exercised within the context of the moral order" (Gaudium et Spes, 74)

Hence, moral responsibility and commitment to the welfare and genuine interest of the people are fundamental criteria that must be required of the candidates aspiring to assume public office.

It is in this context that we would like to relate the issue of environment and anti-mining agenda to the critical challenge of political engagement in the May 2007 election. The care for the earth, as a core moral issue defining the direction of sustainable development, protecting indigenous peoples rights and ensuring intergenerational equity and integrity of creation, must be highlighted as an indispensable consideration in any political platform for it to deserve serious consideration. This is the premise of the recent appeal of Cardinal Gaudencio Rosales that voters should discern who among those aspiring for public office were truly committed in caring for Mother Nature and that we choose to vote for "ecology-minded" candidates.

It is alarming to note the prevailing situation of ecological crisis and the widespread destruction of the environment. The World Bank study called Philippine Environment Monitor 2004, reported that the Philippines looses over $2 billion dollars annually due to environmental degradation. This estimate excludes social cost and the loss of quality of life. The Food and Agriculture Organization noted in 2001 that we lost 100,000 hectares per year of forest reserves in the decade of 1990-2000, and HARIBON has stated their concern that 18% of our remaining forest areas will be subjected to cutting, after analyzing the 2004 Philippine Forestry Statistics. In addition, PAFID has observed that 1 out of 3 ancestral domains are being threatened by mining, after studying the data from DENR and NCIP.

In our country, the destruction caused by human disregard for the ecology is clearly noted: "because the integrity of God's creation is violated, our people suffer the destruction brought about by droughts and floods. Those disasters cannot be traced merely to uncontrollable powers of nature, but also to human greed for short term economic gain." (PCP II, Acts 323)

The ecological devastation is made even worse by the government's policy to aggressively promote the mining industry, enticing the transnational companies to plunder our natural resources at the expense of the affected communities. It is for this reason that the CBCP in their Statement on Mining Issues and Concerns, dated January 29, 2006, reaffirm their stand for the repeal of Mining Act of 1995 and declared that "allowing the interests of big mining corporations to prevail over people's right to these sources amounts to violating their right to life."

We, as a Church, profess our commitment to care for creation for we believe that it is a matter of urgent challenge and a call of duty to promote the Christian principles of justice and to uphold the common good. With the late Pope John Paul II, we profess that "Christians, in particular, realize that their responsibility within creation and their duty towards nature and the Creator are an essential part of their faith." (THE ECOLOGICAL CRISIS, No. 8, Message of His Holiness Pope John Paul II for the celebration of the WORLD DAY OF PEACE, January 1, 1990; also, Centesimus Annus, 40)

Therefore, we strongly call for our people to include the environmental platform as one primary criterion in choosing candidates, be they for national or local offices. It is our responsibility to scrutinize the track record of every candidate with regard to their stand on logging, mining, and other ecological concerns, including their advocacy for the rights of the indigenous peoples. And we vote accordingly, in favor of pro-environment and pro-people candidates!

We encourage all the communities to be active in seeking information and increasing their awareness on the issues surrounding the elections and the concerns related to choosing our next leaders.

As Christians committed to our vision of promoting life, justice and equity in ecologically sustainable communities, we entrust all our endeavors to God, our Creator, who gives us the mission to care for the earth and all of creation, of which we are part (Gen. 1:28).

We also implore Mary, our mother and mother of creation, to help us to vote according to our consciences so that we may be blessed in the coming years with good government.

May the Risen Lord continue to journey with us and sustain us all with the blessings that we need in proclaiming the Kingdom of justice and love for all his people and for all creation.

Signed by:
Bishop Deogracias Iñiguez of the Diocese of Kalookan,
Bishop Jose Manguiran of the Diocese of Dipolog,
Bishop Nereo Odchimar of the Diocese of Tandag,
Bishop Dinualdo Gutierrez of the Diocese of Marbel,
Bishop Ramon Villena of the Diocese of Bayombong,
Bishop Jose Corazon T. Tala-oc of Diocese of Romblon and
Bishop Warlito Cajandig of Apostholic Bicariate of Calapan, Mindoro

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