Bishop cites ‘horrific effects’ to environment

Bishop Crispin Varquez(center) led a prayer rally in Borongan City on Monday (August 7) against mining operations in Eastern Samar, particularly on Homonhon and Manicani Islands. (Photo Courtesy: Borongan Cathedral)

TACLOBAN CITY– Thousands of people from all parts of Samar parishes conducted a prayer rally on Monday (August 7) to voice out their strong opposition against mining operations, particularly in Guiuan town, Eastern Samar.

The prayer rally, dubbed as a ‘Jericho Walk’ as inspired in the Bible, was led by Borongan Bishop Crispin Varquez, with the estimated 2,000 participants coming from the various parishes of Samar Island converging at the grounds of the Borongan cathedral.

In his statement, Varquez called on the provincial government of Eastern Samar as well as the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) not to approve any mining applications and cancel the existing ones.

“I appeal to our government officials responsible for processing applications for mining operations in Eastern Samar, to the members of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan, please do not endorse such applications for the sake of our people, especially our poor,” the prelate said

“I (also) appeal to the DENR and the Mines Geosciences Bureau to please cancel all mining permits being used by mining companies operating in our areas,” Varquez added.
He urged these officials not to be blinded to the ‘horrific effects’ of mining operations in Homonhon Island, off in Guiuan town.

Varquez insisted that ‘destroying’ the earth is never part of God’s plan. ‘This is especially because, as Pope Francis puts it, the earth is our common home.’

At present, there are four mining companies conducting mining activities on the island where Portuguese navigator, Ferdinand Magellan, landed on March 16, 1521 which led to the discovery of the Philippines.

These companies are the Cambayas Mining Corp., Techiron Resources Inc., Emir Mineral Resources Corp.; and Mt. Sinai Exploration and Development Corp.

In Manicani Island, also in Guiuan, the Hinatuan Mining Corp. is reportedly to resume mining activity.

Fr. James Abella, the social action director of the Borongan diocese, said that the prayer rally held on Monday was a culmination of their seven-day movement against mining which started on August 2.

During the past five days, ‘prayer for the earth’ was recited in all parishes and barangay chapels not only within the diocese of Borongan but in the entire Samar Island which includes those in Samar and Northern Samar provinces.

Fr. Abella said that the call against mining is being supported as well by Bishops Emmanuel Trance of Catarman diocese and Isabelo Abarquez of the Calbayog diocese.

“Today is the culmination of our prayer rally against mining which we dubbed as Jericho Walk and we hope that any mining activity will come to its end,” he said.

A Jericho Walk comes from the Old Testament Book of Joshua which tells the story of the walls of the Canaanite city of Jericho coming to collapse after Joshua led the people of Israel on seven marches, one per day, around the ancient city.

On the seventh day, it was said, the Israelites blew their trumpets and the walls collapsed.
According to Abella, they hope that during the past seven days, they were able to raise awareness among the people about the ‘massive destruction caused by the mining activities, particularly on Homonhon Island and in the process, joined the Church-back opposition against any mining operations.

“The mining operations in Homonhon, all four of them have caused nothing but massive destruction on the island. The water is polluted; the white school uniforms of children turned gray due to the dust coming from the mining pits and the fishermen could no longer fish within the island’s water. They have to conduct their fishing far which is dangerous for them,” Abella said.