Environment rehab needs passion – Clenro-A A +A
Sunday, September 8, 2013
WITH the current state of the environment in the city, his passion to give back to God’s creations has been fueling his desire to learn everything about environmental rehabilitation and protection.
It all began as he climbed mountains with his mountaineering buddies during his younger days. The more he communed with nature, the more he has been lured to groups that fight against environmental exploitation and degradation.
Each time his life has been put at risk fighting against nature’s enemies, the more he finds life’s meaning.
And it has become more meaningful these days as Edwin Ilogon Dael sits as the chief of the City Local Environment and Natural Resources Office (Clenro). Now, that he heads this controversial office that has been blamed for allowing the wanton destruction of the city’s environment, the more his passion to protect God’s creations will be tested.
Edwin has the power, influence and the technical capacity to put into action all those that he has been advocating to address the city environmental destruction.
For years environmental groups have alleged Clenro as a “rubber stamp” because it allegedly failed to mitigate the illegal mining activities in the barangays along the Cagayan de Oro and Iponan rivers. Instead, special permits proliferated that flourished illegal activities in the upstream barangays. The absence of the City Mining Regulatory Board (CMRB) prompted the previous administration to resort to special permits.
Clenro could be accountable to the destruction that brought the horrendous inundation that swept hundreds of lives and millions of properties as Typhoon Sendong (Washi) hit the city in December 2011.
At Clenro, he is reunited with his old team, the people he worked with during the stint of former Mayor Pablo Magtajas. At that time, he remembers, the small victories won by Task Force Subangan in protecting the environment.
“The river was clear. Illegal logging was stopped and trucks were impounded and kept at the Philippine Air Force compound in Lumbia. The last two years of Mayor Pablo Magtajas was a reprieve for the environment. The campaign to protect the environment was fully supported and funded. Sadly, it went to nothing as the Emano administration took over. The victories slowly faded and lost again,” Edwin shared.
As Edwin comes back to Clenro, he says that addressing the vast environmental destruction in the city requires consistent rule of law and sustainable options for the communities to survive.
On August 9, it intercepted illegally cut trees. Also in August, Clenro intercepted an illegal copper ore concentrate. The two six-wheeler trucks have been impounded at the City Engineering Office. Deliberations for the release will be conducted next week. But, Edwin sees the chance for the release is slim.
“I have received reports that illegal mining continues, however, they use silencer as they operate at nighttime. We couldn’t operate at night yet these days, but soon we will get there especially when we the settlers unite to fight against it, they can be our best vanguards,” he said.
Unify the lumads
The illegal mining activities in the upstream barangays, he said, has mostly involved barangay captains (village chiefs) who are lumads lured to corruption. “They live comfortable lives with nice houses, vehicles and other material comfort at the expense of the environment as they work with those illegal mining and logging operators in the areas.” Some have even turned operators as they learned the ropes of the illegal activities. But, Edwin believes they too are victims.
Edwin started his round of talks with the Higaonon’s council of elders called Inanay-Inamay in barangay Dansolihon in August. He found out that there are still many Higaonons who remain steadfast in protecting the environment. They are spiritual who believe that destroying their environment will anger the spirits who inhabit there, Edwin said. “They believe that what surrounds them is their bloodline. The forest and the lands are their bloodline.”
The tribal guards will also be tapped soon as the massive campaign to stop these operators begins, he said. “Running after these illegal operators has to be strategic since it is risky. I am fortunate that those people I worked with years ago would warn me the risk of going into some areas. I just have to trust,” he said.
Sitio Balongkot in Barangay Dansolihon is the last remaining forest in the city where hardwood trees like Narra and Mahogany abound.
“The Higaonons are simple people and however simple life is, there is nothing for them. Their barangays have been left behind. The dilapidated roads prevent them to sell their produce at a decent price. Each time they haul their products, it will be expensive,” Edwin said.
Addressing the environmental destruction in the city, he said, requires all fronts – provide these communities with alternative livelihood that is sustainable and technical assistance on planting.
He cited a few projects that are underway. To show the sincerity of the city government to eradicate the illegal mining and logging activities, it is piloting a project called the Benoni-Tuburan Kasaligan Resettlement Site in barangay Tuburan where the Higaonons will live and plant fruit trees and vegetables. They will be provided sacks of rice as they plant the resettlement site. “It is a food for work assistance,” Edwin said.
Soon as harvests will begin in December the food terminal project at Westbound in barangay Bulua will take care of the produce of the resettlement site. The Department of Agriculture (DA) is shedding P1-million while the City Government is giving P130,000 as counterpart for the project.
The money, he said, will be used to purchase the facilities like chillers, freezers, scales among others and for the start-up capital. It will also be a source of income as it caters produce outside the project to earn.
With Republic Act 10452, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) will release P37 million to reforest 3,000 ha of public land covering barangays Tumpagon, Pigsag-an, Tuburan, Tagpangi, Dansolihon and Tagpangi. The funds come from the General Appropriations Act (GAA). Representative Rufus Rodriguez (2nd District, Cagayan de Oro) filed the bill. “This is going to be a great help to the communities and the rehabilitation of the forest in those barangays,” Edwin said.
Edwin is bent on pushing for the Mines and Geoscience Bureau (MGB) to study the geological morphology of the river to implement the proper rehabilitation projects.
It was only in November 2012 that the City Government organized the City Mining and Regulatory Board (CMRB). “Organizing it has long been overdue. It should have been the body that regulated the mining activities in the areas and not special permits that former mayor Vicente Emano released,” Edwin said.
Clenro has already recommended to Cagayan de Oro City Mayor Oscar Moreno the cancellation of the existing special permits and the issuance to fully stop the ongoing mining activities. “It is high time to allow the correct procedure to apply for any mining activities,” Edwin said.
The CMRB has been recently convened. It is composed of Teddy Sabugaa, the mayor’s representative; lawyer Giovanni Catli for the small-scale mining; Ralph Abragan, civil society group; the chair of the committee environment of the City Council and Clenro as the secretariat. “There is no representative from large-scale mining because it is never possible for the large-scale miners to operate here due to the cost benefit. It will be expensive for them to do so, that’s why the illegal activities persist,” Edwin explained.
Edwin furthered that the city can only opt to gold panning since the kind of gold in the city is free. “We don’t have alluvial gold here.”
Edwin banks on the support of the city government. Mayor Moreno told him, “Do your mandate. I will take care of the roads.”
Edwin admits it will be an arduous task but with teamwork, which he has, the funds and full support from the City Government, it will be a battle waiting to be won.
With regard to risking his life to this advocacy, Edwin said he is more prepared especially that his children are grown-ups and his worries over them have ebbed. “It was so difficult when I was younger but I persist. More so this time that they are grown-ups and they understand what makes my life fulfilling after the family -- take care of the environment. I cannot reinvent me, this is who I am.”
Edwin takes precautions as the road he is taking is rough, but with God, he sees things to be all right.
“I did it before. I assure you that even before Mayor Moreno’s term will end, the Iponan river will turn green. All we need to do is allow the process, if it has to be a moratorium for the mining activities, then be it, but an alternative should always be available.”
Armed with the passion to give back to God’s creations is Edwin’s core. He believes that with passion everything else will follow.
Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on September 08, 2013.