Bishop Jose R. Manguiran is considered by local church leaders and organizations as “the epitome of a religious leader who has continued to advocate church for the poor and campaign against environment plunder”.
To many, he is also known to have an “incisive and clear view of the relationship between the destruction of the environment and neocolonialism and imperialism”. His visibility as the Bishop of Dipolog City and his active involvement in the defense of ancestral domain against environmental plunder has invigorated the local human rights defenders and Subanen tribe alike in pursuit of defense for Mindanao communities’ healthful ecology and environment.
Bishop Manguiran had worked with the indigenous Subanen tribe against the Toronto Ventures Inc.’s (TVI) mining project in the Canatuan area in Zamboanga del Norte as he head and participate various activities calling the Philippine Government to withdraw TVI’s Mineral Production Sharing Agreement (MPSA).
He is also one of the church leaders who participated the Bayog Fact-Finding Mission following the gruesome massacre of Subanen residents in barangay Bubuyan who actively call for the immediate pull-out of TVI and to put a stop in its dangerous explorations of their ancestral domain.
Despite receiving major death threats and character assassination brought by his advocacy against Toronto Ventures Inc. in Siocon, Zamboanga and being an active environmental leader, Bishop Manguiran still continue to lead the fight against large scale mining plunder in Mindanao.
Under his leadership, residents of Zamboanga Peninsula expressed great opposition against the mining plunder of TVI Canada in Mt. Canatuan. A Congressional inquiry on site in Siocon, was conducted by the House of Representatives largely upon the prodding of Bishop Manguiran’s influence and leadership.
Bishop Manguiran also led an Interfaith Pilgrimage to Mt. Canatuan to demonstrate the people’s resistance to largescale mining of TVI Canada. The pilgrimage gathered religious leaders from the local parishes in Zamboanga del Norte, United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP) Northern Zamboanga District, Sisters Association in Mindanao, Imams and Ustadz from Moro communities, and Subanen leaders from Zamboanga Sibugay and del Norte, gathering 500 people from the communities in Siocon, from the provinces of Zamboanga Sibugay, Zamboanga del Norte. Bishop Jose Manguiran of the Diocese of Dipolog made a symbolic prayer by lying prostrate on the ground for a minute of silence, and then planted his Bishop’s staff on the ground. This prayer, Bishop Manguiran said, symbolizes a prophetic plea for God’s intervention to help the people in Siocon.
Bishop Manguiran likewise hosted and led the formation of environmental alliances in Mindanao such as the Panalipdan! Mindanao and PROTECT Western Mindanao.
He has contributed to the advancement of environmental struggle in the country by co-authoring Writ of Kalikasan, a legal remedy that provides protection for Filipinos’ constitutional right to a healthy environment. Bishop Manguiran is also known for planting and nurturing various tree species. To date, he has the largest collection of varieties of Balete tree, with more than 400 species in number.
He has consistently participated in a series of water-testing operations in mining areas in Zamboanga Peninsula to monitor the impacts of mining activities on water quality. The monitoring is part of a study on the health of ecosystems and serves as basis for their continuing campaign for the protection of the environment. He is a recipient of Department of Science and Technology award and citation for his consistent environmental works.
Aside from his environmental advocacies, Bishop Manguiran is also known as a fearless advocate of good governance, having been one of the few Catholic bishops who exposed the bribery attempts of the Arroyo presidency in order to enjoin the support of the Catholic Church in calling for the then president’s ouster.
Currently on his retirement, Bishop Jose R. Manguiran leaves a legacy as a role model to church leaders, environmental advocates, young people, and even to politicians by continuing living with nature in simplicity and meditation while continuing encouraging social movements in defense of Creation against large-scale mining plunder.