Philippines deports Irish Columban missionary

Irish Columban Fr Frank Nally who was working with former British government minister Clare Short on a report on the impact of foreign mining companies in the Philippines was detained and deported upon his arrival at Manila airport on Sunday.

"You're blacklisted," an official told Catholic priest Fr Nally at the immigration desk in Manila airport on Sunday 5 January, according to a report on the Columban website.

The official told the surprised Columban missionary, who had previously worked in the Philippines for many years, that for the first time ever he would not be admitted into the country and would be detained overnight in the transit area of the airport.

Fr Nally, 52, a member of the Columbans' Faith and Justice team, had flown to Manila to prepare the release of a report on the impact of the activities of foreign mining companies on the Philippine environment and communities to be launched in London and Manila on 25 January.

He was part of a fact-finding mission that visited mining areas of the Philippines in July 2006 to gain first-hand information on the situation.

Independent British Member of Parliament, Ms Short, was also part of the mission, which took the initiative in response to an appeal from the Philippine Catholic bishops for international assistance in their campaign against large-scale mining.

Following her visit with Fr Nally, Ms Short told British Caritas agency CAFOD that she was shocked and appalled by the level of environmental, social and cultural damage mining companies have caused in the country.

"I have never seen anything so systematically destructive as the mining program in the Philippines. The environmental effects are catastrophic as are the effects on people's livelihoods," Ms Short said.

The 62-page report prepared by the team covers legal, environmental and political issues and gives a number of recommendations.

Fr Nally said he was not given any reason for his blacklisting, but did notice a notation "NICA" (National Intelligence Coordinating Agency) on the immigration officer's computer screen.

Fr Nally, who is currently based in London, said that Philippine authorities confiscated his passport and kept guard on him overnight.

He was finally escorted onto an 8am Hong Kong-bound flight on 6 January, but his passport was given to airline staff to deliver to Hong Kong authorities who interviewed him on arrival.

"I could not tell them the reason I was deported as no one told me," he said. "However, I did say that I could only surmise that my involvement in the fact-finding mission and the upcoming release of the report may have had something to do with it."

On 6 December 2006 American human rights lawyer Brian Campbell was also barred from entering the Philippines. He said at that time: "what is clear is that rule of law and freedom of speech is suffering in the Philippines today".

The Australian director of the Columban Mission Society in The Philippines, Fr Brian Gore, said that in all probability publicity around the letters written to the British government led the ambassador in London to request or recommend the blacklisting. "But it is impossible to know," the veteran missionary said.

Fr Gore, who was charged and acquitted of multiple murder and treason charges along with the famed Negros Nine in the early 1980s, said that he doubted the blacklisting would be lifted quickly. "It took 20 years before they finally lifted mine," he laughed.

Blacklisted priest detained and deported from Manila airport (
Missionary priest deported from Philippines (Independent Catholic News, 8/1/07)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Columbans Australia
Columban Missionaries
Philippines Fact Finding Blog

Mining to blame for typhoon deaths, Filipino priest says (CathNews, 18/12/06)
Filipino bishops seek solidarity from Australian Church (CathNews, 22/9/06)
Priest threatens to take Aussie mine to court (CathNews, 8/9/06)
Fish kill confirmed near Australian mine in Philippines, priest denies sabotage (CathNews, 16/8/06)
Columban confirms Australians' key role in Philippines under-age sex trade (CathNews, 15/9/03)
Columban priest murdered in Philippines (CathNews, 30/1/01)

MP "enormously shocked" by mining (Cafod News, 10/8/06)

10 Jan 2007

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