Church to faithful: Take Pope’s encyclical seriously

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THE leader of the Catholic Church in the Philippines, Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Antonio Tagle, has called on the faithful to take an encyclical of Pope Francis on the environment “seriously,” especially the call to “integral ecological conversion.”

“Let us take the bold step of reviewing and changing our lifestyles, our patterns of consumption, of spending,” said Tagle, president of Caritas Internationalis, adding that the Earth would only be a beautiful home if everybody takes responsibility for it.

The Pope came out with the Laudato Si last year, his second encyclical since assuming the papacy.

In it, he lamented environmental degradation and global warming because of irresponsible development.

Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Regina Lopez vowed to follow the Laudato Si, particularly the issues of climate change adaptation and global warming

Also on top of her priority, she said, are protection and enhancement of marine and forest biodiversity and fight against irresponsible mining.

Meanwhile, advocacy group Save Philippine Seas Movement on Wednesday urged the government to demand payment from owners of a Panamanian-flagged bulk carrier that damaged 483 meters of coral reef after running aground at a world-famous diving site off Cebu last month.

SPS said the owners MV Belle Rose, registered under Alpha Ship Management Corp., should pay for the damage and the cost of rehabilitating the marine resource property even as appropriate charges are being readied against the ship owners.

The incident was similar to the 2013 Tubbataha Reef incident where the US government paid P87 million in fine for damage caused by grounding of the US Navy mine sweeper USS Guardian on 2,345,67 square meters of corals in Tubbataha Reef National Park, a Unesco-declared world heritage site.

In a statement, SPS co-founder and executive director Anna Oposa said an inter-agency task force formed by the Cebu provincial government is preparing the case, particularly assessment of the damage to the Monad shoal, widely known as a popular tourist destination and scuba diving haven.

The MV Belle Rose ran aground in Monad Shoal about 4 nautical miles southeast off Malapascua Island at 3 a.m. on June 13 en route to San Fernando port in Naga, Cebu, from Japan.

It was reportedly loaded with some 48,000 tons of clinker, reportedly for use in cement production of Taiheiyo Cement in Naga City.

Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office (PDRRMO) chief Baltazar Tribunalo Jr. said marine biologists from the University of San Carlos and non-government organizations were also helping in the investigation to determine the extent of damage to the corals and other marine life in the area.

Tribunalo pointed out that before the vessel can be salvaged, there has to be a risk assessment.

He said they will thoroughly go over the province’s environmental laws to determine the sanctions that will be imposed.

Monad Shoal, a protected marine area, is regarded as the number one diving spot in Malapascua Island.

It is popular among tourists because thresher sharks use the site as a feeding ground and cleaning station.

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