Catholic Church

Palawan bishops lead call to end mining, focus on agriculture, tourism

Paterno R. Esmaquel II

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Palawan bishops lead call to end mining, focus on agriculture, tourism

SHEPHERD. Bishop Broderick Pabillo is one of the two Palawan bishops calling for an end to mining in their province.

File photo by Angie de Silva/Rappler

‘To be God’s responsible steward of creation is a huge moral responsibility,’ say Catholic clergymen led by two bishops who work closely with poor communities

MANILA, Philippines – The two Catholic bishops of Palawan, a province known as the Philippines’ “last ecological frontier,” called for an end to mining in an open letter marking the 400th year of Christianity in the province.

The open letter was signed by Bishop Broderick Pabillo of the Apostolic Vicariate of Taytay and Bishop Socrates Mesiona of the Apostolic Vicariate of Puerto Princesa, along with at least 65 other priests under their care.

In an open letter written in Filipino and published on Monday, June 12, the Catholic leaders of Palawan appealed to the government to “prohibit the expansion and extension of mining operations and to implement a law that bans the opening of new mining sites.”

“On the other hand, it is best to focus on programs in agriculture and tourism,” they said.

Both apostolic vicariates – or communities where dioceses have not been established – cover around a million Catholics combined. Their province is home to rainforests, protected areas, indigenous communities, and biodiversity hotspots including two UNESCO World Heritage sites.

“The natural beauty and natural resources of Palawan are unique, so it is but fitting that we give her a unique kind of care so that we can ensure that future generations can benefit from the things that we enjoy today. To be God’s responsible steward of creation is a huge moral responsibility,” the Catholic leaders of Palawan said.

“If other places in the Mimaropa region tried to close the mining sites in their own territories, shouldn’t we exert much more effort to protect our province as a Last Ecological Frontier?” they added. Mimaropa includes the provinces of Marinduque, Occidental Mindoro, Oriental Mindoro, Palawan, and Romblon.

SOCIAL JUSTICE. Bishop Socrates Mesiona of Puerto Princesa joins an anti-mining protest at Brooke’s Point, Palawan, March 7, 2023.

Pabillo, 68, and Mesiona, 59, are among the Filipino Catholic bishops who are most in touch with the poorest communities. 

Pabillo, former auxiliary bishop of Manila, is known for speaking out on social justice issues across different administrations. He has been vocal about environmental and other issues in Palawan since Pope Francis promoted him in June 2021 to become the main bishop in charge of the 21-year-old Apostolic Vicariate of Taytay.

Like Pabillo, Mesiona has been involved in social justice issues in Palawan since he was installed bishop of Puerto Princesa in February 2017. A paper by Palawan priest Father Eugene Elivera, for example, detailed Mesiona’s role in shepherding their people during the COVID-19 pandemic. Before becoming bishop, Mesiona was superior general of the Mission Society of the Philippines. –

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Paterno R. Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II, news editor of Rappler, specializes in covering religion and foreign affairs. He finished MA Journalism in Ateneo and MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email