MANILA, Philippines (CNS) — “Be like Leonardo DiCaprio.” reported that was the call of Sister Aloha Vergara of the Handmaids of the House of God, who said DiCaprio’s speech at the Feb. 28 Academy Awards “reflects the people and the churches’ position on the protection of the environment.”

The Hollywood actor said climate change “is real” and blasted what he called the “politics of greed” in his speech accepting his first Oscar.


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.

“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 church and environmental activists denounced alleged human rights violations in a mining town in the northern Philippines.

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

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.”

In the same forum, Lito Latorre, coordinator of the Philippine Redemptorists’ Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation program, 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 Center 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 50 kilograms in 2000 now only net at most five kilograms.