Manila (AsiaNews) – The world’s first-ever environmentally-friendly church is set to rise in Smokey Mountain by Christmas next year, a church official said yesterday. Smokey Mountain is a dumpsite in the Tondo district that receives Manila’s garbage.
Fr Benigno Beltran from the Parish of the Resurrected Christ said on Sunday that he hoped to celebrate the 2007 Christmas Novena in the new church, which will feature solar panels, a rain catchment system and waterless composting toilets. He is also eyeing the use of coco diesel for the church’s generators.
Palafox Associates, an architectural firm, designed the church structure in such a way that it could use some 200,000 hollow blocks mixed with old computer parts and other residual waste as materials. The church roof will be used as a greenhouse for growing vegetables.
The planned five-story building, which has been dubbed the “Church of Hope”, will not only be a place of worship but will also promote economic activities among Smokey Mountain residents.
The church basement will be the venue for programmes designed to promote activities like bath and laundry soaps production. It will also house Smokey Mountain’s daycare center and computer-based learning center that caters to out-of-school youth.
“This would not only be the first environment (-friendly) church, but it would also be the first digital church because it is Wi-Fi capable,” Fr Beltran added.
The existing makeshift chapel was torn down to make way for the new church, which will seat 1,200 people.
Beltran said while they have tentatively set the completion of the church in 12 months, it might take longer.
He said they need 50 million pesos (US$ 1 million) to complete the project and have already raised one-fifth of this amount so far. The church’s foundations and concrete flooring have been laid.
Located north-west of Manila, the 21.1 hectare dumpsite is home to some of the poorest shanties. Since the 1990s attempts have been made to improve living conditions for its residents. Meanwhile residents continue to separate out garbage.
Father Beltran is currently talking with church officials in the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR) to work out an arrangement whereby Smokey Mountain residents would send biodegradable material to be used as fertilizer to CAR farmers in exchange for fruits and vegetables sold to them at a lower price.
Beltran, who has been involved for years in improving living conditions for Smokey Mountain’s 2,520 families, said the project is made possible with the support from partners in the Smokey Mountain Development and Reclamation Project such as the government, the Catholic Church and private companies.
The firm R-II Builders Inc., owned by construction magnate Reghis Romero, donated the 2,000-square meter lot on which the church is being built.