A Catholic bishop in the Philippines is warning that the promotion of online cockfighting will erode the “societal moral fiber” of the country.

Bishop Ruperto Santos of Balanga called on the government to work against the growing phenomenon.

Cockfighting is a popular sport in the Philippines and draws thousands of spectators and generates millions in gambling revenue. During the COVID-19 pandemic, which has closed many cockfighting establishments, the activity has moved online.

“What we need in this time COVID-19 is spiritual recovery, moral ascendancy, not promotion of vices and proliferation of any form of gambling,” Santos told the Manila Bulletin on Tuesday.

“This online [cockfighting] will never be blessing to our country, as it will only be source of problems in the community and division in the family,” the bishop told the newspaper, adding it erodes the “societal moral fiber and gives wrong values to our youth.”

On October 15, Santos issued a pastoral directive opposing the opening of a new cockfighting establishment in his diocese.

“Will that cockpit help our people, especially in the middle of a pandemic when people are even struggling to put food on their tables? Absolutely not,” he wrote.

“A cockpit is a venue for propagating a vice, not a service to the community,” Santos continued. “That cockpit will never build up our people, but will only break up our community. It will never be a source of blessing to our town. On the contrary, it will lead us to poverty and much suffering.”

The bishop said cockfighting is a “social malady” that is “not honorable to God nor is it edifying to our people.”