`Stop Killing the Environment`

“May napaparusahan po pag pinapatay ang tao pero walang napaparusahan kapag pinapatay ang ating mga bundok, ang ating mga puno, at ang ating mga dagat.”

Some 400 participants from all sectors of society braved torrential rains last May 30 to join the third leg of the Salakyag Para sa Sangnilikha 2018: Sama-samang Sakay-Lakad-Layag Para sa Sangnilikha Trans-Philippines Pilgrimage and Caravan calling for increased protection for the Environment and upholding the Rights of Nature. 

Dubbed Salakyag 2018, the march from De Lara Park at the Misamis Oriental provincial capitol grounds to Gaston Park was part of the nationwide campaign for the protection and conservation of our environment and respect for the rights of nature which started May 28 in Zamboanga City and ends today at the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Central Office at Visayas Avenue, Diliman Quezon City and in Mendiola, Manila in time for the global celebration of World Environment Day.

“It is a journey and pilgrimage of hope and faith for our countrymen to raise awareness for the protection of the environment.  We have many problems due to irresponsible mining,  irresponsible logging and irresponsible management of our upland areas that cause severe flooding, soil erosion, and mass destruction of our lowland communities,” said Cagayan de Oro Archbishop Antonio Ledesma in his opening statement for the press conference at Gaston Park following the march.

“It is for this that we appeal to remind ourselves that nature itself is a gift of God, and we are asked to be stewards of the environment. We are asked to me mindful of the rights of future generations, seeing how we have already experienced Sendong and other calamities which devastated our communities.  May all of us be careful and mindful of caring for our common home, for our country and the good of our fellow men and women,” he added.

This year’s theme Protect Mother Earth! Defend Inter-Generational People’s Rights for a Balanced and Healthful Ecology. Recognize and Uphold the Rights of Nature! is aimed at raising public awareness on the negative impacts of mining and climate change, highlight human rights violations by mining communities, call for the passage of green bills pending in the legislative branches of government, and demand accountability from erring mining companies.

Prior to the national caravan, a series of Kalampag ng Salakyag build-up events were also conducted from March to May 2018 in mining affected communities.

Respect for The Rights of Nature

“We are doing Salakyag because we are concerned about the continued and massive environmental destruction brought about most especially  by large scale mining companies,  and other aggressive development projects on logging, coal mining, hydropower dams which always have great impact on the environment,” said Yolanda Esguerra, executive director of Philippine Misereor Partnership Inc. (PMPI) and SALAKYAG 2018 national coordinator. “This is so far the longest caravan to be mounted in the country which is also registered in the worldwide celebration of World Environment Day.” 

“We echo the call of Pope Francis in his pastoral letter Laudato Si calling for the protection of our common home and to her both, the cry of the poor, and the cry of Mother Earth, and for all people to embrace ecological conversion. To stand and be one with nature, in a lifestyle that is sustainable,” she added. 

“In damaging the environment, we are damaging our relationship with other humans, particularly our brothers and sisters who are poor, and future generations. We are forgetting are interconnected with the earth, and those around and ahead of us, who depend on our good stewardship of the gifts of creation, said Fr. Saturnino S. Lumba, SSJV, head of the Archdiocese of Cagayan de Oro’s (ACDO) Social Action Center, who also represents the SAC in the Cagayan de Oro River Basin Council headed by Abp. Ledesma.

“Thus, we commit to continue the protection and conservation of our watershed, through the active engagement of the Cagayan de Oro River Basin Management Council. We call on the local governments to continue to support all our endeavors in the hinterlands and along the riversides, for the safe cause and in combating all kinds of mining and quarrying in our city.”

Fr. Lumba committed in behalf of the SAC and CDORMBC to help improve synergy in building a safer and more responsive and healthier local environment, incorporating campaign principles into every individual project, program and intervention, and to share the campaign with neighboring networks, ACDO\s Ad-Intra and Ad-Extra Ministries and colleagues in CLIMOACO, Tulay Kalinaw Mindanaw, BSS in the parishes, catholic education and other dioceses. 

Call to Action

“We call for a stop to the killing of our environment. As we share our voice of dissent on the killing s happening in the war on drugs, we say no the wanton destruction and killings of the environment and all creation.” Esguerra declared.

“For a long while now, our environment has fallen victim to an economic and political system which treats Mother Earth as a Utility, to exploit it for the good of the human species without regard whether other species could die or become extinct.  Forgetting that man’s life is intertwined with other creations.”

“Salakyag pushes for a return to the culture of interconnection and full embrace of nature. To uphold the Rights of Nature, that can further enhance human rights. Let this journey really jump start the push for a law that would give integral and legal rights to nature. We wish to dialogue with the president, DENR secretary, and our lawmakers, to submit to them the one millions signatures gathered during our caravan, for the protection of the environment and the push for the Rights of Nature,” she added.

Esguerra said Salakyag is a timely platform to uphold the rights of nature “as equal in importance to the rights of human beings.”

“The modern world has produced people so disconnected with nature who only see its usefulness in relation to themselves. The natural perspective should be the ability to see the usefulness of each of the species to each other and their interconnectedness.”

Murder of Filipino Environment Advocates

“Of 149 environmental advocates killed worldwide, 49 or almost a third is from the Philippines. And mostly, the victims are the indigenous peoples, farmers, community leaders and advocates. The poor remains to be the most affected by environmental destruction and suffer the brunt of natural disasters brought by climate change.  We seek justice for the victims and better protections for our environmental advocates and affected communities,” Esguerra added. 

SALAKYAG 2018 in Cagayan de Oro was organized by the local clusters of PMPI (CABUSTAM Cluster of member organizations from Cagayan de Oro, Butuan, Surigao, Tandag, and Misamis Occidental); KIDMACO Cluster of member organizations from Kidapawan, Marbel, and Cotabato; Davao Region Cluster Members and Philippine Misereor Partnership, Inc. (PMPI) – a network of people’s organizations (POs), non-governmental organizations (NGOs), church/faith-based groups and Misereor in Germany; the National Secretariat for Social Action (NASSA)/Caritas Philippines- the humanitarian, development and advocacy arm of the Catholic Church in the Philippines created by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) in 1966 and mandated to accompany the poor and marginalized in the just and legitimate struggle for social justice and transformation.

[Photos: Kids at the 3rd leg of the Salakyag 2018 walk in Cagayan de Oro last May 30 stress the movement's Inter-Generational Rights of People towards a healthy & balanced ecology. (Salakyag 2018 photo); Mutlisectoral groups brave the rains during the 3rd leg of Salakyag 2018 in Cagayan de Oro (Salakyag 2018 photo).]