MANILA, Feb. 4, 2011â€”Anti-mining advocates in Sorsogon lighted candles as they sought justice for slain activist Dr. Gerry Ortega.
Hundreds of people gathered in a symposium on Mining and Climate Change in Sorsogon City lighted their own candles in solidarity with thousand others in Palawan and Metro Manila who prayed and held vigil for the slain environmentalist.
Fr. Alexander Jerus, Matnog parish priest and chairman of the Coalition Against Mining (CAMPS) in the Province of Sorsogon led the people in praying for enlightenment and environmental justice.
“Let these candles enlighten our dark minds and souls to understand our role as stewards of creation and maintain ecological balance; let the light of justice shine upon those who were persecuted and oppressed for the sake of defending the integrity of creation and dignity of persons,” he said.
Sorsogon is also at the forefront of an ongoing crusade against mining in the province.
For Jerus mining in Sorsogon is generally “a moral and spiritual issue for it destroys the relationship of persons with each other, with the environment and with God; it further degrades the dignity of persons through the evils of greed and deception.”
Many of those who participated in the symposium organized by Alyansa Tigil Mina expressed grief on the untimely death of Ortega even as they salute his commitment in protecting the environment.
Bryan Gavanzo, Matnog municipal tourism officer and public information officer of CAMPS said Ortegaâ€™s crusade for ecological preservation serves as an inspiration for all of them.
He pointed out that mining, both large and small scale may “destroy tourism potentials and fuel the effect of climate change disasters in the upland and coastal communities.”
Food security is also at risk if mining will be allowed in the province, according to Teodoro Garbin, president of Matnog Sagip Kalikasan Organization (MSKO) and Matnog Environmental Protection and Waste Management officer.
Intensified agriculture and aquaculture is a top priority program of the municipality, Garbin said, adding that â€œclimate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction management are being implemented in the province of Sorsogon.â€
Meanwhile, Sorsogon provincial board member Vladimir Ramon Frivaldo disclosed that roughly â€œ35%-40% of Sorsogon’s mountains and coastal areas are being opened up for extractions of iron, magnetite, manganese, gold, copper and titanium.â€
“I am surprised that our lands are already mapped to be sold without the knowledge of our constituents,â€ he said.
He called on the provincial government to protect the environment and uphold the rights of the people.
â€œI challenge the provincial board and Governor Raul Lee to defend our people and serve within the mandates of the Local Government Code to enhance the right of the people to a balanced ecology and the Philippine Constitution to protect and advance the right of the people to a balanced and healthful ecology in accord with the rhythm and harmony of nature,” he said.
The groups who participated in the symposium and prayer service were the Coalition Against Mining in the Province of Sorsogon (CAMPS), Matnog Environmental Advocates Organization (MEAO), Matnog Sagip Kalikasan Organization (MKSO) and United Matnoganons International (UMI). (CBCPNews)