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Sorsogon Lights Candles for Slain Media Man

February 2, 2011, MATNOG, Sorsogon - Relating Sorsogon's mining and ecological issues to the advocacy of a slain broadcaster, ABS-CBN Foundation's Dr. Gerry Ortega, hundreds of people lighted candles to seek environmental justice and enlightenment joining thousands of people gathered in Palawan and Quezon City in a simultaneous prayer service after a symposium on Mining, Climate Change and Disaster Risk Reduction conducted by Alyansa Tigil Mina (ATM).

"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," said Fr. Alexander Jerus, parish priest of Matnog parish and chairman of Coalition Against Mining in the Province of Sorsogon (CAMPS).

Jerus claimed that 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."

"Ms. Gina Lopez of ABS-CBN Foundation has been to Matnog many times and admired the beauty of our town and stressed potentials for ecological tourism, hence, Dr. Gerardo Ortega becomes one of our inspirations and we share his dream to defend and protect our environment," said Bryan Gavanzo, Matnog municipal tourism officer and public information officer of CAMPS.

Gavanzo explains that both large and small scale mining applications in the province may "destroy tourism potentials and fuel the effect of climate change disasters in the upland and coastal communities."

"Food security through intensified agriculture and aquaculture is a top priority program of the municipality; climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction management are being implemented in the province of Sorsogon. Our efforts are useless if mining is promoted," declared Teodoro Garbin, president of Matnog Sagip Kalikasan Organization (MSKO) and Matnog Environmental Protection and Waste Management officer.

For his part, Sorsogon provincial board member Vladimir Ramon Frivaldo claimed that "almost 35%-40% of Sorsogon's mountains and coastal areas are being opened up for extractions of iron, magnetite, manganese, gold, copper and titanium."

"I am surprised that our lands are already mapped to be sold without the knowledge of our constituents. I 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," stressed Frivaldo.

“Last week Palaweños already launched the anti-mining signature campaign. Today, in Manila and Sorsogon, we join our hands together until mining is totally banned, we will not take a step back. We will continue with the fight, for Doc Gerry and for all environmental martyrs and activists who risked their lives and died for our advocacies,” said ATM National Coordinator Jaybee Garganera.

The nationwide simultaneous candle lighting and prayer service for ABS-CBN's Foundation Dr. Gerardo Ortega was organized by the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines(CBCP), Alyansa Tigil Mina (ATM) and the Philippine Misereor Partnership (PMP) and in Sorsogon, Coalition Against Mining in the Province of Sorsogon (CAMPS), Matnog Environmental Advocates Organization (MEAO), Matnog Sagip Kalikasan Organization (MKSO) and United Matnoganons International (UMI).