(Batangas City) – “We did not know the dangers that a coal-fired power plant can cause to our health and environment,” a couple, both senior citizens, commented after hearing Ms. Gina Lopez of ABS-CBN Foundation talk about CFPP, and urged the more than a thousand who attended the prayer-march, dubbed “Lakadasal” to fight for their right to save the earth “for the love of God, family, and for Batangas”. The couple only heard of the event Sunday before the event when they attended Mass at Trinity Parish. Being good Catholics, they decided to rise up early and joined the prayer-march this Monday morning. This was their first time to attend such a rally where both of them proudly wore red shirts and waved flaglets with “No to Coal” printed.
The organizers sighed a breath of relief upon learning that city authorities finally relented and gave the permit for the march to proceed. However, in his text message which went the round among the clergy, Archbishop Ramon Arguelles stood pat in his decision to proceed “with or without a permit, even alone, rain or shine”. And they got police escorts more than the previous rally held last February.
People from the different parishes in the Archdiocese of Lipa, especially from Vicariate 3 where 7 out of its 10 parishes belong and would be directly affected by the CFPP in Barangay Pinamucan, started to amass at the Capitol Site by 5:00 am, and by 5:30 am, the sound system blared out the song which has become popular at the Archdiocesan Radio Station DWAL-FM 95.9 signalling the start of the prayer-march. There were participants coming outside Batangas, led by Greenpeace Philippines, Philippine Movement for Climate Justice, Kilusan Para sa Kalikasan, who joined the thousands of students, lay leaders from the different parishes and religious organizations, local cause-oriented groups, religious men and women, led by the local clergy of the Archdiocese. Even the pastors of the different non-Catholic denominations, belonging to the Batangas City Ecumenical Council (BCEC) marched alongside the Archbishop and Fr. Dakila Ramos, head of the Archdiocesan Ministry for Environement (AMEn), convenor of the Lakadasal.
Upon reeaching the Basilica ground, a concelebrated Mass was presided over by the Archbishop assisted on the stage by Fr. Dakila Ramos, Msgr. Rafael “Boy” Oriondo, pastor of Trinity Parihs and the most senior priest at Vicariate 3; Fr. Dondon Beredo, Vicar Forane and pastor of St. mary Euphrasia Parish; and Fr. Aurelio Dimaapi, pastor of the mother parish of the Immaculate Conception. In his homily, Archbishop Ramon quoted heavily from Pope Francis’ latest encyclical “Laudato Si” which he said all the more made him resolute in fighting for Mother Earth. He insisted that it is everyone’s duty to defend the integrity and balance of ecology, to be more responsible stewards of God’s creation.
Ms. Gina Lopez energized the people with her power point presentation which explained to the people how a coal-fired power plant works, its ill-effects on health and environment. She pointed out the importance of fighting this JG Summit proposed power plant as this would affect the Verde Passage, which scientists call the Center of the Center of Diversified Marine Life in this planet. Each time she would ask the people if they would allow this, the people gamely responded “NO!”. All the more the people got agitated when she showed and let them listen to video recording of people affected by the coal-fired powere plants in Calaca, batangas and Masinloc, Zambales. Ms. Lpez was on stage from 7:30 till 9:00 am. After the Archbishop’s final message and blessing on the people, he together with the Archbishop, some priests and other participants trooped to the City Hall upon the invitation of Vice-Mayor Junjun Berberabe, who has made known publicly his no-stand on the issue.