Br. Jaazeal Jakosalem works in youth ministry in Cebu City and Negros Island in the Philippines, educating Filipino youth about Church teaching on the environment. Youth in Jakosalem’s program paint murals to spread the word about climate change and environmental degradation. Photo courtesy Br. Jaazeal Jakosalem

Protecting the environment goes beyond climate change

  • August 9, 2015

Whether motivated by Canadian garbage, Canadian mines or devastating typhoons linked to global warming, Pope Francis’ environmental encyclical has emboldened the fight in the Philippines for environmental justice, said an advisor to the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines.

Climate Reality Corps leader Br. Jaazeal Jakosalem, a member of the Augustinian Recollects who counsels the bishops on climate and environmental issues, said the effects of climate change on the Philippines is undeniable.

“In our conversations here, for us the message of the Pope is very affirmative on our side,” said Jakosalem. “For us here, people are the victims.

“We have seen it very powerfully in our experiences of typhoons. Our livelihood is affected. Our communities are affected, I mean really affected, by changes in the climate. We cannot deny it.”

The Filipino bishops met July 6-13, less than a month after Pope Francis released Laudato Si’,  and vowed to present a position paper in Paris at this December’s United Nations negotiations on climate change.

Manila’s Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle led his fellow bishops in being the first to sign the Global Catholic Climate Movement petition addressed to world leaders gathering in Paris.

For Jakosalem the case for environmental protection is bigger than just the climate change issue. Trained by the Al Gore-founded Climate Reality Corps in Beijing in 2012, the religious brother has been involved in campaigns against Canadian-operated mines in the Philippines and the ongoing saga of 50 containers of Canadian household trash sitting in the docks in Manila since 2013.

Twenty-nine of the 50 containers of Canadian garbage have been dumped at a landfill near Manila, but Jakosalem and the network of Church and non-governmental organizations he works with are still pressing for Canada to reclaim the garbage.

Whitby-based recycling company Chronic Inc. claims the shipment was supposed to be mixed plastics from recycling bins in Vancouver. Philippine authorities claim they found a range of household waste in the containers from food scraps to adult diapers.

Filipino campaigners claim Canada has broken the Basel Convention which prohibits shipping hazardous waste internationally.

Canadian mining ventures in the Philippines have run into trouble with Filipino resistance on the grounds that local communities were never adequately consulted before deals were signed between companies and Filipino provincial governments. The Sagitarius Mines Inc. project at the southern tip of Mindanao Island, controlled by Canadian miner Glencore Inc., has drawn the attention of Filipino NGOs and the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace.

Goldcore’s proposed open pit mine on a site covering approximately 10,000 hectares would be one of the largest copper mines in the world.

“Our cause is always people over profits, communities over profits, not money over people. The paradigm of the encyclical is always people over profits,” Jakosalem said.

Filipino Catholic bishops’ conference president Archbishop Socrates Villegas told Catholic News Service the Pope’s message on caring for the environment is “nothing new” to Filipino Catholics. But the encyclical brings the issues into the foreground because he “opens very interesting perspectives in the care for creation… for example, linking the cry of the Earth with the cry of the poor.”

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