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Borongan bishop dismayed at mining ban lifting

Borongan bishop dismayed at mining ban lifting

Bishop Crispin Varquez of Borongan. PHOTO COURTESY OF BORONGAN CATHEDRAL

By CBCP News

April 27, 2021

Borongan City, Eastern Samar

Allowing more mining operations in the country could prove disastrous on top of the prevailing Covid-19 pandemic, warned a Catholic bishop.

Bishop Crispin Varquez of Borongan decried the lifting of the moratorium on new mining projects because it would further “exploit our already much-wounded land”.

“New mining operations will only worsen our environmental crisis on top of this health pandemic,” Varquez said in a pastoral letter released Monday.

The bishop was reacting to President Rodrigo Duterte’s lifting of the moratorium on new mining deals to boost state revenue and prop up the pandemic-hit economy.

The decision ended the policy imposed in 2012 by Duterte’s predecessor, Benigno Aquino, following public clamor over a spate of mining accidents.

He also questioned the move due to lack of “dialogue for the common good” among all stakeholders.

“We call on President Rodrigo Duterte to issue again an Executive Order for mining moratorium in the Philippines,” Varquez said.

Eastern Samar hosts decades-old chromite and nickel mining operations on the historic Homonhon Island in Guiuan town.

Efforts are also reportedly being made to revive the nickel mining operation on Manicani Island, also in Guiuan, that the government shutdown in 2002 over human rights and environmental issues.

Abandoned 26 years ago, the Bagacay mine spill disaster in Wester Samar’s Hinabangan town still haunts the affected communities, especially those along the Taft River in Easter Samar.

For the diocese, the island has no history of responsible mining.

“Our local experience provides enough evidence,” Varquez said. “Bagacay, Homonhon and Manicani cry out this truth”.

Samar, the country’s third largest island, is hilly and mountainous. Mining in this area, he added, means lowland communities become more susceptible to flooding and pollution from mining operations.

“Locals may be temporarily employed or benefited. But the long-term consequence of a devastated landscape is also incalculable and irreversible,” Varquez said.

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