22 April 2023

Ms. Maria Antonia Yulo-Loyzaga
Department of Environment and Natural Resources

Greetings. We share our open letter.



The past few weeks have been mired with numerous issues related to our environment. We have been told to hydrate and avoid sun exposure due to the dangerously increasing heat indexes throughout the country. But indoors, we are vexed with rotational power interruptions as power plants across several regions run on derated capacities or forced outages.

Out there, destructive mining and reclamation projects continue to deplete our natural resources. On the Island of Homonhon, five mining companies continue to ransack the island of its minerals despite spirited opposition from residents, the local government unit, and several private organizations. In just a matter of years, since big-scale mining companies started operating on the island in 2009, they have managed to reduce Homonhon to a patch of mud on the east side of the Leyte Gulf and, in the process, completely ignored its historical and religious significance to Filipinos.

In San Felipe, Zambales, several dredging vessels operated by Chinese crew members have been disrupting the lives of residents there. They have been operating in the guise of river restoration and rehabilitation to prevent flooding but the truth here is that the sand extracted from their river and sea is being transported to a reclamation site in Pasay City and an airport in the province of Bulacan.

Between all these, there lie the continuous and steady threats to protected areas and environmental defenders. Just recently, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) attempted to revoke its contract with the Masungi Georeserve Foundation and with the Department of Justice (DOJ) saying that the contract is “unconstitutional.”

Time and time again, countless environmental advocates and civil society organizations have tirelessly called to protect the Masungi Georeserve, one of the last remaining forests near Metro Manila. Others have barricaded mountain slopes with their bodies to show their indignance toward mining and illegal logging. Many others have pushed back on the passing of harmful policies that would endanger marine ecosystems. Indigenous communities walk hundreds of kilometers to protest the building of a foreign-funded dam that would displace thousands of communities, submerge sacred sites, and destroy forest habitats.

Among all of them, a total of 334 environmental defenders are reported to have been killed since 2022. For nine consecutive years since 2012, the Philippines—our country—has been ranked as the deadliest spot in Asia for environmental defenders.

This is the harrowing environmental situation of the Philippines as we celebrate Earth Day this 2024. Secretary Maria Antonia Yulo-Loyzaga continues to ignore the cry of Mother Earth and the pleas of the communities affected by environmental problems as if it is outside her mandate as the head of the DENR. We even wrote to her, requesting a dialogue to introduce our campaign on the Rights of Nature and share issues from our mining-affected community partners. We followed up on our request many times but were never accommodated.

Our calls have seemingly landed on deaf ears. Is our DENR Secretary deaf? Or is she just pretending to be one? Regardless, we reiterate and echo: kung hindi po ninyo kayang gampanan ang inyong trabaho, baka panahon na po para magbitiw kayo? (if you can’t do your job, maybe it’s time to resign?)

We, in the Philippine Misereor Partnership Incorporated (PMPI), a network of more than 250 church faith-based groups, non-governmental organizations, and people’s organizations in the Philippines, ask our fellow environmental defenders to remain steadfast in our shared advocacy of fighting for the environment, empowering communities, and upholding the dignity of human life.

This Earth Day, we especially hold our banners tighter, raise our clenched fists higher, and shout our calls louder. Together, let us ask the Secretary to:
● Cancel the 15-year Mineral Production Sharing Agreement (MPSA) extension of Hinatuan Mining Corporation in Manicani Island;
● Cancel Kaliwa Dam Project;
● Punish oil polluters in Verde Island;
● Rehabilitate Boac River in Marinduque;
● Permanently stop seabed dredging and repeal the Dao 13 Series of 2019 in Zambales;
● Pass the Rights of Nature Bill for a just and sustainable future for every Filipino today, tomorrow, and future generations!

We hope and pray that our dear Secretary will listen to the pleas of the affected communities and the cry of Mother Earth.

Fr. Edwin Gariguez 
Philippine Misereor Partnership Inc. 

Yolanda R. Esguerra
National Coordinator
Philippine Misereor Partnership Inc.