The Apostolic Vicar of Puerto Princesa took a swipe at mining companies when he stood with the people of Brooke’s Point against the Ipilan Nickel Corporation, which was accused of violating laws.
Bishop Socrates Mesiona showed his support for the ongoing demonstration on February 19 by visiting the protesters in the area, according to a story posted by the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP).
“Palaweños, for many years, lived decently in peace until mining companies came… their lives have been disturbed,” Mesiona said.
This comes a day after anti-mining activists in the area staged a protest by camping out in front of the Ipilan Nickel compound and obstructing the company’s hauling roads in Brgy. Maasin to prevent their operations.
The protesters assert that the company does not have the necessary permits, particularly from the local government, which are required for its operations to be considered legal.
Mesiona took up the cause of the demonstrators, arguing that they were within their rights to stand up for what they believed in and preserve their environment from the mining company’s alleged destructive practices.
The bishop noted that the “terrifying” flooding disasters the town experienced during the holiday season “[are] still fresh in their memory and they know that there is no guarantee that it will not happen again.”
“That’s why they are convinced that they have to do something to mitigate any similar incident in the future,” he added.
The apostolic vicar reflects the feelings of town residents, with whom he met earlier this month to discuss mining and other environmental issues.
The Catholic Church has a longstanding history of actively participating in the anti-mining cause. The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines in 1998 issued “A Statement of Concern on the Mining Act of 1995,” declaring that “the government mining policy is offering our lands to foreigners with liberal conditions while our people continue to grow in poverty.”
Since 2002, the Apostolic Vicariate of Puerto Princesa (AVPP), which oversees the Catholic Church in southern Palawan, has been a staunch opponent of mining, with Bishop Emeritus Pedro Arigo serving as one of the leaders of the Save Palawan Movement (SPM).
The SPM launched the 10 million signature campaign against mining in Palawan.
This prompted former President Benigno Aquino to issue Executive Order No. 79, proclaiming the province a mining “no-go zone,” which was later rescinded by President Rodrigo Duterte.
At the beginning of this year, the parish priest for Our Lady of Lourdes in Brgy. Ipilan was in hot water after he asked the mining company for 150 liters of diesel every month.
The AVPP is yet to comment on the issue.