BULACAN, Sept. 30, 2015 – A Catholic priest has minced no words in blaming developers for the alleged destruction of Sierra Madre, exhorting the government and the public to do what they can to conserve, protect, and restore the little that remains of the mountain range.
“We call on the government to stand up against those who are blinded by greed and do not see the Sierra Madre Mountain as a mother who also needs to be nourished,” said Fr. Pete Montallana, director of the Save Sierra Madre Network Alliance.
Among other agencies, the priest faults the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) for allegedly using all kinds of tricks just to railroad the Free Prior and Informed Consent of the indigenous peoples (IPs) and the social acceptability of the dam-affected communities.
“The MWSS and other extractive industries in the Sierra Madre should stop manipulating the indigenous people,” Montallana explained.
He pointed out that the situation demands an alternative to dams, which “also entails learning how to consume only what we need, caring for the earth, opposing [factors] that fragment the Sierra Madre.”
According to him, the Sierra Madre continues to experience fragmentation due to the “developmental projects” that put at risk the biodiversity and ecological services that drive local and national economy.
Its common causes are: logging, large extractive industries like mining, road building, and conversion to agricultural and settlement areas.
Montallana went on to express fear that large dams like the New Centennial Water Source Project, the Ilagan-Divilican road that cut through the mountain range, and coal mining projects would speed up fragmentation in the area.
With this in mind, the priest invited the faithful to take on the challenge given by Pope Francis to rebuild the relationship with nature.
“The heat, the drought and the rains are here – alarming signs that we are headed towards a very critical period putting in grave danger the next generation,” he ended.
The great Sierra Madre covers the provinces of Cagayan, Isabela, Nueva Vizcaya, Nueva Ecija, Quirino, Aurora, Quezon, Rizal, Laguna, and Bulacan. (Raymond A. Sebastián / CBCP News with reports from Yen Ocampo)