‘Investments don’t guarantee development’ – NASSA official

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Fr. Edwin Gariguez, executive secretary of the National Secretariat for Social Action Justice and Peace delivers his key note speech during the annual conference of the National Justice and Peace Network of England and Wales, held at the Hayes Conference Centre, Swanwick, UK from July 17 to 19, 2015. The conference was participated by more than 300 justice and peace activists from the Catholic dioceses of England and Wales. (Photo from facebook account of Fr. Edu Gariguez)

MANILA, July 26, 2015— A Catholic prelate has recently lambasted the goverment’s promotion of large-scale mining, saying the influx of investments does not automatically spell development for the country as a whole.

“The Philippine government’s near-fanatical endorsement of mining as the engine for development and poverty alleviation is totally misleading, for it only counts the investment contribution, while leaving behind more important considerations in the equation,” said Fr. Edwin Gariguez, executive secretary of the National Secretariat for Social Action Justice and Peace (CBCP-NASSA) in his speech during the 37th Annual Conference of the National Justice and Peace Network held at the Swanwick Derbyshire, United Kingdom last July 17 to 19.

Beyond ‘monetary valuation’

Gariguez said the government’s aggressive promotion of mining activities under the guise of spurring on development brings serious consequences to the lives of present and future generations.

“The inherent defect is the notion that development is often equated with the delivery of the much-needed investment, which is often achieved at the expense of social and ecological equilibrium,” he added.

According to the priest, so-called development, when “pursued primarily for financial benefits” is distorted because it does not factor in human and ecological well-being.

“We should never sacrifice people and the environment for short-term benefit of the few,” he said.

The priest also reiterated his call to the faithful to fight greed and give careful consideration to the environment in order to achieve genuine development and environmental sustainability.

“Protecting the rights of the poor must take precedence over corporate greed. Genuine development must prioritize the need to ensure ecological sustainability over market profitability,” explained Gariguez.

Gariguez noted that if large-scale mining activities would go unabated, grave consequences such as the denudation of forest ecosystems and conflict in access and control of resources will haunt Filipinos for many generations.

Wanted: genuine development

The survival of indigenous communities will be threatened due to their displacement in their own ancestral lands, while the livelihood of farmers living in downstream communities will also be greatly impacted, Gariguez added.

The priest urged the faithful to go beyond profit-oriented ideology and carefully consider environmental sustainability to drive the country towards genuine development.

“We see the need to go beyond the myopic monetary valuation of our natural resources to give weightier consideration to the demand for ecological protection, promotion of environmental justice and the common good,” he said.

“We need to recognize the flaw in the market framework which regards the natural resources as something to be exploited rather than a crucial reserve to be sustained and protected in order to preserve the ecological balance and to ensure sustainability for all – both for the human community and the threatened ecosystems,” Gariguez added.

Gariguez cited as an example the case of Mindoro province, which once had 967,400 hectares of forest in the 1950s, and now has only 50,000 hectares of forest cover remaining. The significant forest loss of 95% contributes to the instability of the environment both in the upland and lowland areas.

“But instead of restoring the balance, the forest ecosystems are now even more in danger of being denuded due to the threats posed by more than 92 mining applications all over the island of Mindoro,” he said. (Jennifer M. Orillaza/CBCP News)

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