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“Our country is in peril. All the living systems on land and in the seas around us are being ruthlessly
exploited. The damage to date is extensive and, sad to say, it is often irreversible.

One does not need to be an expert to see what is happening and to be profoundly troubled by it. Within a few short years, brown eroded hills have replaced luxuriant forests in many parts of the country. We see dried-up riverbeds where, not so long ago, streams flowed throughout the year. Farmers tell us that, because of erosion and chemical poisoning, the yield from the croplands has fallen substantially. Fishermen and
experts on marine life have a similar message. Their fish catches are shrinking due to the extensive
destruction of coral reefs and mangrove forests. The picture emerging in every province of the country is
clear and bleak. The attack on the natural world which benefits very few Filipinos is rapidly whittling away at the very base of our living world and endangering its fruitfulness for future generations… “

Nearly four decades ago, our predecessors in the CBCP wrote the Pastoral Letter on Ecology entitled “What is Happening to Our Beautiful Land?” – one of the first lamentations on the ailing health of our Common Home, which was also an exhortation for action and courage to protect it.

Today, we reflect on these words as we near the 1st anniversary of a tragedy in what is known as the Amazon of the Oceans – our very own Verde Island Passage (VIP). On February 28, 2023, this marine biodiversity hotspot fell victim to massive destruction from 900,000 liters of industrial oil that spilled from the sunken MT Princess Empress. For over half a year afterward, thousands of fisherfolk and other sectors were robbed of their means of living. Families had little to eat, and many also suffered illnesses from exposure to pollution. Thousands of hectares of mangroves and seagrasses were placed in peril, and so was the very fabric of life in our seas. The gravity of impacts has yet to be fully measured and continues to ripple today and in years
to come.

As we near one year since the oil spill happened in the VIP, we decry the continued elusiveness of
accountability on the part of companies behind the oil spill, and erring authorities that contributed to the
incident. We also lend our voice to the call for justice for victims of the oil spill and for sufficient and timely compensation that genuinely takes into account the damages that fisherfolk communities incur and continue
to incur.

We must note that the oil spill tragedy also indeed became a backdrop for action and compassion among
the people of Mindoro and the many individuals and organizations who heeded the call for solidarity. And
today, we need that same solidarity – for justice for our brothers and sisters that were affected, and to call for action so that the Verde Island Passage would never again be subjected to a tragedy like the said oil spill in the future. It is crucial to take a stand together as this paradise, this underwater Eden, continues to be threatened – by ships ferrying toxic cargos, build-out of gas and LNG power plants and terminals, extractive and industrial activities, and other problems.

“The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein…” (Ps 24:1)


In the service of the Church of the Poor,

Lead Convenor
CBCP National Laudato Si Program
Eco Convergence National Hub
Vice-Chair, Caritas Philippines

President, Caritas Philippines
Chairman, CBCP Episcopal Commission on Social Action, Justice, and Peace (ECSA-JP)

President, Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines

20 February 2024