Catholic church joins call to temporarily halt operations at Semirara mine

Published April 26, 2020, 12:00 AM

by manilabulletin_admin

By Tara Yap

ILOILO CITY – The Roman Catholic Church in Antique province has joined the mounting calls to temporarily halt coalmining operations in Semirara Island in Caluya town after four workers tested positive for coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

Semirara Island in Caluya town, Antique province is considered the country’s largest coalmine.  (Tara Yap/File/Manila Bulletin)
Semirara Island in Caluya town, Antique province is considered the country’s largest coalmine. (Tara Yap/File/Manila Bulletin)

“In this time of pandemic, the Semirara coalmining and shipment operations are contrary to human life and safety,” said Fr. Edione Febrero, director of the Diocese of San Jose de Antique’s
Social Action Center.

The April 25 letter of appeal that also had the endorsement of Bishop Marvyn Maceda was addressed to Secretary Alfonso Cusi of the Department of Energy (DOE), which has jurisdiction over Semirara.

“We strongly make this appeal even as we stand in solidarity with the residents of Semirara and Caluya , knowing fully well that COVID-19 will not defer to be perceived importance to the island’s businesses, but will bring greater suffering to people with limited means of self-preservation,” said Febrero in the letter obtained by Manila Bulletin.

The diocese’s move came after Antique Governor Rhodora Cadiao, Antique Representative Loren Legarda and Caluya Mayor Rigil Kent Lim made similar calls to temporarily halt Semirara’s operations.

To recall, four sub-contractors of the Semirara Mining and Power Corp. (SMPC) tested positive for COVID-19. Three of them were infected by a man who flew in to the island via private plane last month.

The diocese also asked national government officials to halt entry of foreign vessels that transport coal products. It is allegedly against the protocol on enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) set by both the national government and the Antique provincial government.

“There must be an order that all foreign ships to immediately return to their port of origins until no new infections are recorded,” Febrero added.

 
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