A paradox that is Mindanao-A A +A
Friday, March 15, 2013
THE island is aptly called the nation’s “food basket,” yet, it is where hunger is more glaring; it oozes with ecological resources where two-thirds of the total export receipts are coming from, yet, its six regions are suffering from high poverty gap ratio than the rest of the country.
What could be more paradoxical than that! Amid the bounty lies so much poverty where the basic sectors, i.e. farmers, fisherfolk, indigenous people, women and the workers, are highly marginalized and are socially excluded from development processes.
Poverty in Mindanao is rooted, not in the lack of resources, but in the powerlessness of the inhabitants to have access and control over their resources which are fast slipping through their fingers.
Where are our Lumads who have been sustainably living in the forest ecosystem for thousands of years, thriving from the bounty of the forest, their “marketplace” and “botica” that provide them their basic needs? The forests were our “invisible water dam” and “carbon sink” that are now all gone.
Why did we allow a few greedy loggers and their formidable cabal of vested interest to ravage our forests in shameless defiance of the rule of law? Do you know that the loggers would earn P360 million pesos from one shipment of logs alone? Well, these gargantuan rakings did not all go to the pockets of the loggers. Information gotten from the 20-year experience in barricading logging trucks disclosed the participation of those who are tasked to enforce environmental laws but were only successful in conniving with the loggers.
Where are these loggers? They are safe in their mansions. I do believe that they must be the subject of massive investigation as the crimes they have committed against the environment should have no prescriptive period. These loggers have left an indelible mark of their crimes as hundreds of thousands of denuded mountains are standing as monuments of shame and concrete evidence of the environmental crimes that they have committed.
There are laws that prohibit them to cut trees in areas that are more than 1,000 meters above sea level or in sloppy areas with more than 50 percent gradient. These areas that they have logged are in these categories as the pictures that we have taken lately from an aerial surveillance are conclusive proofs. On top of these, not a single tree had been left standing (meaning they had cut even those small trees which should not be cut). That these areas are now totally denuded means that they have not complied with the requirement of replanting, an obligation embodied in the Timber License Agreements issued to them.
With our forest gone or after the wealth above the surface have been ravaged, this time what are being “logged” are the minerals beneath the surface through massive hydraulic mining or through the use of heavy equipment or if in the river, using barges to dredge the alluvial deposits and sediments.
We have committed a great mistake in allowing our forest to be plundered. This time, we have our lessons. We should not allow anymore the plunder to continue. The mindless exploitation of our minerals are going on without let-up, even participated in by Chinese Nationals who were only allowed to enter the Philippines as tourists, yet, are heavily engaged in the mining operations.
Some 61 mining firms, some owned by Chinese and Koreans, were issued by the DENR Environmental Compliance Certificates (ECCs) for sand and gravel only yet these ECCs were used as fronts for their heavy mining operations.
Any law student will be puzzled by these shameless violations of environmental laws. We have been told that in this country, no one is above the law; that all must bow down to the majesty of the law. If you visit the courts of law, there you find in bold stroke the words, “justice be done till heavens fall.” These are all just rhetorics because this is not so with regards to the environment.
When a few powerful loggers and miners are giving notice to one and all that they are above the law and can continue their illegal operation fragrantly and without let-up with support from powers-that-be, then the consequences will be fatal as concretely manifested by Sendong. These dark forces that created Sendong should now be stopped by simply following the rule of law.
If we continue to sacrifice mother earth and the people to the altar of greed and profit, then, Mindanao will always remain as the Land of Paradox.
Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on March 15, 2013.