“Economic gains cannot outweigh anything that endangers the life of nature and the very life of our people in general,” says Bishop Socrates Mesiona.
Pandemic-induced poverty could force those living in remote provinces and are in near deprivation to resort to illegal logging or mining activities to overcome their hardships brought about by the economic downturn triggered by the spread of Covid-19.
PUERTO PRINSESA — The warning came from Bishop Socrates Mesiona of the Apostolic Vicariate of Puerto Prinsesa in Palawan who urges Catholics to maintain the integrity of creation in the region despite the ill-effects brought about by the pandemic.
“We must carry out tangible conservation efforts for the sake of future generations. We should be responsible enough to protect our terrestrial and marine resources,” the bishop pointed out in a pastoral letter to mark the Church’s celebration of this year’s Season of Creation.
He issued the appeal following reports from an indigenous group called the Pala’wan that hundreds of trees were being illegally cut by a quarrying firm in the southern part of the island despite opposition from activists and church leaders.
The indigenous Pala’wan claimed the firm did not have the necessary Government permits and may be protected by some Government officials who wantonly disregard the rights of the indigenous communities in the area.
Though thankful that there are still some who believe in the importance of environmental conservation, Mesiona fears people may still be tempted to conduct illegal mining and illegal logging because of extreme poverty while some locals may even say that they may not have any choice due to harassment.
Residents and locals in the area noted that there aren’t enough jobs for everyone, not to mention the lockdowns that have imprisoned (most people).
“Currently there is no source of income here but nature,” said one resident.
However, Mesiona reminded his parishioners that although life was made difficult by the coronavirus pandemic, efforts to alleviate poverty must not be at the expense of the environment.
“The crisis we are facing right now is due to the pandemic. All of us must find ways to mitigate every circumstance,” he stressed while asking if it should really be at the expense of (people’s) common home?” he asked. (TRC/Headline PH)