Exhibit exposes mining effects

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PARAÑAQUE City, April 26, 2014—The National Shrine of Our Mother of Perpetual Help (Baclaran Church) launched Wednesday a weeklong photo exhibit which seeks to educate the faithful on the often devastating effects of mining on people and the environment.

“Images are more powerful because the message they are sending is harder to miss. I learn more about the consequences of mining by looking at these pictures than I can ever hope to learn by reading newspapers,” Jing Versoza, a Baclaran regular who passed by the mini exhibit on her way inside the shrine, shared in Filipino.

The exhibit's powerful images convey to the public the long-term impact of mining on culture, communities and the environment. (Photo: Raymond A. Sebastián/CBCP News)

Photos for posterity The exhibit can be found on the Redemptorist Road-side of the Baclaran Church grounds, and runs until Wednesday next week.

It features dozens of professionally-taken photographs of the places in the country endangered by mining like the towns of Didipio and Kasibu in Nueva Vizcaya, and more controversially, Tampakan in Mindanao’s South Cotabato province, where a multibillion-dollar mining project has been drawing flak from the country’s high-ranking church officials and eco-warriors.

The exhibit also features photos that capture for posterity the plight of many people living in communities threatened by mining.

In a letter dated March 11, 2014, the local clergy led by Cotabato Archbishop Orlando Cardinal Quevedo, appealed to President Benigno S. Aquino III (PNoy) to stop the $5.9-billion Tampakan mining project, and prayed that he may have a “God-enlightened” decision on the issue.

Although the 23 prelates who signed the missive admitted that the project by global miner Xstrata Plc’s Philippine unit will significantly contribute to the local economy, they pointed out that it will “harm the local community and destroy the environment”.

Economic gain vs. environmental destruction “The cost, Mr. President, will far outweigh the benefits to government and the Filipino people,” part of the letter read.

Run by Sagittarius Mines Inc., the project seeks to explore 13.5 million metric tons of copper and 15.8 million ounces of gold which, supporters insist, will fatten the national coffers with a yearly revenue of P134 billion.

Despite the project’s unpopularity, the government issued in February 2013 an environmental compliance certificate to Sagittarius, a unit of Xstrata.

Marbel Bishop Dinualdo Gutierrez, who has episcopal jurisdiction over South Cotabato, expressed dismay that PNoy continues to ignore the petition of more than 100,000 people calling for the junking of the project.

In an interview with Church-run Radio Veritas, Gutierrez said that with PNoy giving them the cold shoulder, the Mindanao bishops will just focus on an information drive in order to educate their flock on the evils of mining.

Also in the same letter, the prelates stressed that their opposition against the SMI Glecore-Xstrata project is hinged on “moral grounds” citing the following reasons:

  • The destruction of almost 4,000 hectares of forested and agricultural land and biodiversity is against the integrity of God’s creation, conferred Genesis 2:15. 
  • The dislocation of almost 6000 surface dwellers mostly B’laans from there ancestral land is against human right. 
  • The threat to food security and human life to the used of cyanide and heavy metals for processing ore’s is very real. 
  • The past killings and future violence as the B’laans will defend there ancestral land, the source of food building material, aerial grounds of there Ancesters and places of living will adversely affect peace and harmony. 
  • Up to now SMI, Glecore-Xstrata has not given any proof that open pit mining preserves the integrity of God’s Creation. (Raymond A. Sebastián)

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