Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Pope Francis: Marinduque in his mind (Part 3). Poster child of irresponsible mining past and present

Marinduque, poster child of irresponsible mining past and present

The Vatican under Pope Francis has become starkly aware of the challenges encountered by local communities around the world brought about by mining operations and practices. In September 2013, the The Vatican in a Day of Reflection with the Mining Industry reminded leaders of the mining sector "to create a harmony of interests involving investors, manager, workers, their families, the future of their children, the preservation of the environment", among others.

The CEO's of some of the world's top mining companies participated to "open a dialogue where mining interfaces with the community … to hear other views with the promise of all of us making a difference.”

The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), on the other hand, has often cited in various forums the need to address the "devastating effects and the adverse social impacts of mining that will destroy both environment and people and will lead to national unrest".

CEO's of some of world's top mining companies during "Vatican Day for Reflection on Mining" in front of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace in Rome. Photo: JPIC

In July 2015 the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace (PCJP) gathered participants from 18 countries from Latin America, US, Europe, Africa and Asia including the Philippines, locale of the Marcopper mine disaster, now known globally as the "poster child of irresponsible mining, past and present".

But three weeks before the conference, the Associated Press carried a news story that was followed with great interest by the mining sector: 'Nevada court blocks Philippine province's Barrick Gold suit'.


LAS VEGAS (AP) — A Philippine island province that experienced mining waste disasters in the 1990s has lost its final plea for a Nevada court to hear its claim for damages against Barrick Gold Corp.
The Nevada Supreme Court ruled Thursday that state courts don't have jurisdiction to hear the lawsuit that the province of Marinduque (mehr-in-DOO'-kay) filed in 2005.
The justices ruled 6-0 that a lower court judge correctly decided that courts in Canada or the Philippines are more appropriate venues. Barrick is based in Toronto.

During the conference with mining communities the Pope described the context of the mining conflicts with great insight and empathy acknowledging that the participants came "to echo the cry of the many people, families and communities who suffer directly and indirectly as a result of the consequences, too often negative, of mining activities."






 Pope calls for "radical change" to respect the rights of local communities and the environment. Photo: CNS







He continued: "A cry for lost land; a cry for the extraction of wealth from land that paradoxically does not produce wealth for the local population who remain poor; a cry of pain in reaction to violence, threat and corruption..."

There the Pope stated, “The entire mining sector is undoubtedly required to effect a radical paradigm change to improve the situation in many countries.”  This sentiment reflected his latest encyclical, Laudato Si, in which he encourages “care for our common home.”  

He said all parties needed to adopt a behavior based  in a sincere and respectful dialogue to deal with this crisis.

PCPJ gathered participants from mining-affected communities.
Photo:paxchristi

By September 10, 2015, the Pope would be addressing exclusively all the Bishops he appointed the past year. This transpired at the Congregation of Bishops held at the Clementine Hall of the Apostolic Palace. Cardinal Marc Ouellet of Canada is Prefect of the Congregation.

As history would have it, the said bishops included the Most Rev. Bishop Marcelino Antonio M. Maralit, Jr., Bishop of Boac in Marinduque, site of the Marcopper mine disaster 20 years ago, that "significant historical infamy" as Marinduquenos would remember it. 

The Pope named Maralit as Bishop-elect on December 31, 2014.


Pope Francis meeting some Bishops during a weekly general audience.

In his address to the Bishops, the Pope, among others said, "I am thinking of the natural environment, the garden that God has given as a home to human beings and to other creatures and which is threatened by short-sighted and often unbridled exploitation; I am thinking of the dignity and future of human work... of the widespread evasion of accountability."

So what pontifical message was unexpectedly conveyed particularly to the new Bishop of the Diocese of Boac during the said appointment with the Pope's newly ordained ministers?

(To be continued)

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