Palawan prelate fears pandemic-driven poverty will drive people into illegal logging, mining activities
A bishop in the Philippines has appealed to parishioners in his diocese not to resort to illegal logging or mining to overcome hardship brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Bishop Socrates Mesiona of the Apostolic Vicariate of Puerto Prinsesa in Palawan province urged 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,” he said in a Sept. 24 pastoral letter to mark this year’s Season of Creation.
The Catholic Church celebrates the Season of Creation each year from Sept. 1 to Oct. 4, the feast of St. Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of ecology.
Bishop Mesiona issued the appeal following reports from an indigenous group called the Pala’wan that hundreds of trees were illegally cut by a quarrying firm in the southern part of the island despite opposition from activists and church leaders.
They claimed the firm did not have the necessary government permits.
Bishop Mesiona, however, feared people would be tempted to conduct illegal mining and logging because of growing poverty. However, some locals say they may not have any choice.
“Where will we get food and an income? There aren’t enough jobs for everyone, not to mention the lockdowns that have imprisoned us here in our community,” said one resident who wished to remain anonymous.
“Currently there is no source of income here but nature,” the resident said.
However, the prelate told 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. But should it really be at the expense of our common home?" he asked.
“Economic gains cannot outweigh anything that endangers the life of nature and the very life of our people in general.”