With Homonhon Island as the focus area

Diocese of Borongan Bishop Crispin Varquez, along with other religious leaders and community members, shows strong opposition against mining operations in Samar island provinces during the “Jericho prayer assembly” in Guiuan town, Eastern Samar on January 20, 2024. (ALREN BERONIO)

TACLOBAN CITY-The Diocese of Borongan and the communities of Samar Island provinces have launched a “Jericho prayer assembly” amid the ongoing mining activities in the area.

Bishop Crispin Varquez of Borongan Diocese, along with religious leaders from the Dioceses of Calbayog and Catarman reiterated his strong objection against mining companies in the Islands of Homonhon, Manicani, and elsewhere in the island provinces.

“A healthy environment is of a higher value than any amount of gain or money that is only temporary,” the bishop said in his homily during the assembly on January 20, 2024, at the Immaculate Concepcion Church in Guiuan town, Eastern Samar.

The ongoing mining activities in Samar Island, particularly in Homonhon, have been one of the central points among the socio-environmental issues tackled by the local diocese.
In support of the mounting opposition towards mining in Samar Island, Caritas Philippines, the development and advocacy arm of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), also released a statement, condemning the “practices that prioritize profit over the well-being of individuals and ecosystems.”

“We raise our voices in prayer, imploring the government to listen to the cries for climate justice. The call for responsible resource management and the protection of vulnerable communities must be heard and acted upon,” said Caritas Philippines Vice President Bishop Gerardo Alminaza in a report from Catholic news site UCA News.

Father Antonio Labiao, Jr., Caritas Philippines executive director, added that “the fragile ecosystems of our islands cannot withstand the onslaught of unsustainable mining practices.”

“We implore the world to stand with us in demanding an end to mining in our archipelago,” the priest said.

Opportunities from mining

A government agency said that the mining operations coming from the four companies in Homonhon Island brought P182.6 million in excise tax in 2023 alone.

Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB)-Eastern Visayas regional director Glenn Marcelo Noble earlier said that “mining has been very controversial to some, but in the case of Homonhon, there have been no grave violations.”

“What you see on social media are photographs of siltation ponds that collect water for settling sediments before it drains to the ocean,” Noble said in an earlier interview.