Church joins lobby to protect Verde Island Passage

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Lipa Archbishop Ramon Arguelles urges the national government to declara a huge portion of the Verde Island Passage a protected area. (Photo. CBCPNews)

MANILA, July 23, 2015— An alliance of church people and environmentalists urged President Benigno Aquino III on Thursday to establish a vast conservation area in the “center of the center” of the world’s marine biodiversity .

The Coalition for the Preservation of the Verde Island Passage proposes the creation of protected areas “to secure the safety of this paradise.”

It said the declaration will protect the sea waters and towns facing the straight which occupies more than 1.14 million hectares between the provinces of Batangas, Oriental and Occidental Mindoro, Marinduque, and Romblon.

More harm than good

The appeal was made amid plans for a gold mining operation and a coal-fired power plant in Lobo, Batangas.

Lipa Archbishop Ramon Arguelles said the projects would bring more damage than benefits to the people.

“We want not just a moratorium but a total ban on mining and coal-fired power plant projects in the whole province,” he said in a press conference at a hotel in Quezon City.

He said the campaign has nothing to do with local politics “but for the survival of our race.”

The group asked the government for the revocation and cancellation of all approved mineral production sharing agreements granted in Lobo for mining and eventually, ceasing the issuance of environmental compliance certificates to similar entities.

It also called on the tourism department to declare the Verde Island Passage and the coastal areas of Lobo as tourism zones.

“They have to think [about] the welfare of the people,” said Arguelles. “They want progress, but actually it’s just for some interests and not for the common good.”

The coalition is supported by more than 10,000 signatures of people who are also against mining and coal operations, and an online petition signed by around 9,000 people.

No to mining, no to coal plants

“We are mobilizing a massive force that will stand up against the raping of the environment because the Verde Island Passage has impact on the global ecology,” he added.

Lobo officials on Monday have all but killed off the plan for the Php 640 million gold mining project in the face of overwhelming popular opposition and fears about the province’s environment.

The town council has cancelled its earlier resolution endorsing an MPSA, which is a step closer towards approval of a mining application, amid criticisms of lack of proper consultation.

Fr. Dakila Ramons, head of Lipa’s archdiocesan ministry on environment, said it was clearly a “betrayal to the people of Lobo.”

Aside from gold mining, the coalition is also opposing the plan to put up a 600-megawatt coal-fired power plant project in Lobo.

“These kind of projects will not bring any good to the people, especially to the poor,” Arguelles said.

A team of US marine conservationist in 2006 declared that the Philippines is the center of marine biodiversity in the world and dubbed Verde Island Passages the “center of the center” of marine shore fish biodiversity. (Roy Lagarde/CBCPNews)

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