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Protecting Catanduanes Natural Park is ‘shared duty’, says Virac bishop

The need to preserve the Bicol region’s “last remaining frontier” took the spotlight during a forum on ecology, as Bishop Manolo de los Santos of Virac stressed that protecting the Catanduanes Natural Park is a shared duty.

Speaking at a convention on climate change in Virac, Catanduanes on Oct. 31, he said that if people will do their best, the CNP will be saved from destruction.

“To care for God’s creation is a shared responsibility,” Bishop De Los Santos said. “We all share this grave responsibility”.

“Unless we own up to this obligation, our forest reserve, our rivers and seas will continue to suffer, and our quality of life will continue to be in peril,” he said.

The convention gathered key stakeholders from community leaders, business institutions, civil society and non-government organizations, government offices and church leaders.

According to the Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Office in Catanduanes, the CNP has a total land area of 48,924 hectares encompassing 10 towns and 70 barangays.

Editha Milan, Senior Ecosystem Management Specialist of DENR-PENRO Catanduanes, said that what makes CNP “special and unique” is the fact that it is a close forest “serving as our shield from typhoons and other disasters”.

“Aside from it being the last frontier of old-growth forests in the region, it is also our most powerful protection against the adverse impacts of climate change,” she said.

Milan stressed that if people are really serious about mitigating the effects of environmental destruction, “we can protect our natural park by being very cautious about expanding our agricultural activities, abaca industry in particular”.

“If we do otherwise, it will have catastrophic effects especially to our watersheds,” she added.

With such information, Fr. Edwin Gariguez of the National Secretariat for Social Action described the attempts to include Catanduanes in the “go zones” for coal mining as “very ironic”.

“This is truly unthinkable,” said Fr. Gariguez, who was awarded the Goldman Environment Prize for standing against large scale mining industries in the country in 2012.

To further concretize actions to protect the CNP, the DENR has proposed to the technical working group led by Caritas Virac a self-help approach to community environment conservation.

Nassa is presently implementing a 3-year blended humanitarian and development program with the local Caritas, thus its involvement in the campaign.

It is also the partner of the Philippine Misereor Partnership, Inc. (PMPI) in pushing for the Rights of Nature Bill which has already been filed in both houses of congress. (CBCP News)

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