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Filipino nun: ‘DiCaprio’s Oscars speech reflects Church’s concern for the environment’

Leonardo DiCaprio accepts the award for best actor at the Oscars on Sunday (AP)

Sister Aloha Vergara of the Handmaids of the House of God, in the Philippines, has urged people to “be like Leonardo DiCaprio” and said the actor’s speech at sunday’s Academy Awards “reflects the people and the Church’s position on the protection of the environment,” according to Ucanews.com.

After receiving his first Oscar – the Best Actor award for his performance in The Revenant – DiCaprio said climate change “is real” and criticised the “politics of greed”.

“We need to stand to uphold the protection of all creation,” Sister Vergara said at a March 1 media conference at which Catholic and Protestant religious and environmental activists denounced alleged human rights violations in a mining town in the northern Philippines.

Sister Vergara criticised the recent violent dispersal and arrest of protesters opposed to mining operations in the town of Santa Cruz in Zambales province, reported ucanews.com.

She urged Catholics to reflect on Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si’, on Care for Our Common Home, and “support those who speak for all those who are affected of corporate greed and the destruction of the environment.”

Redemptorist Brother Ciriaco Santiago, convener of an anti-mining group in Manila, said candidates in May national elections should take DiCaprio’s position and “act upon people’s concrete and legitimate demands.”

The religious brother said it is “very timely” for Filipinos to reflect and respond to the situation, especially after years of plunder of the country’s natural resources.

At the forum, Lito Latorre, co-ordinator of the Philippine Redemptorists’ Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation programme, said, “The Church is always on the side of the environment.”

“Actions and programs that destroy creation (are) an attack on the Church’s mission, therefore, the Church should be in the front line to protect people who go against these plunderers of the environment,” said Latorre.

The Centre for Environmental Concerns reported March 1 that “massive losses in livelihood and worsening health conditions” of residents due to mining operations were recorded in the town of Santa Cruz the previous week.

The organization said that, since 2006, when mining started in the town, people noted a rapid decrease in their income.

Farmers have seen their rice yields drop by one third since 2009, while fishermen who used to have an average catch per day of 50kgs in 2000 now only net at most 5kgs.