Yes to food and ecological security; No to palm oil

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By Orlan R. Ravanera

Kim's Dream

Wednesday, June 4, 2014


WITHOUT food and ecological security, a country, even with a strong army, is never secured at all. For the shameless violations of the laws of nature, our people are now suffering the consequences.

After losing 17 million hectares of dipterocarp forest in just a century, the country now reels-off in survival mode, facing great dangers ahead, experiencing the brunt of ecological disasters, power and water shortages and the threat of hunger as our agricultural lands are now converted into massive plantations to satisfy the insatiable appetite of the consumerist and materialistic lifestyle in the North.

This is especially true in the beautiful but broken island of Mindanao where 70 percent of the agricultural lands (the choicest) are under the control of trans-national corporations and of a few elite, converting these lands into massive plantations, not for us but to feed the consumerist lifestyle of the people in the rich countries.

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Why did we allow a few influential loggers to plunder our natural forest and massacre all life forms, our precious irreplaceable mega-diversity whom God has created through the process of evolution for billions of years? Many of these species, be flora or fauna, are endemic, meaning, could be found only in the Philippines, yet, have been erased as loggers and their cabal of vested interest could not moderate their greed. And all of these were done in utter disregard to the rule of law.

Yes, in total violation of environmental laws. I could still remember those years (1991 to 2001) when, I, as head of Task of Force Macajalar (a coalition of some 300 people’s organizations of the ecological people, i.e., farmers, fisherfolk, women, Indigenous People), was charged by Vicmar Logging Corporation of 200 million peso- damaged suit for leading the human barricades to stop the transport of our logs from the hinterlands of Bukidnon, Cagayan de Oro and Lanao provinces. In the latter years of the human barricades, a Court had issued warrant of arrest against us, to stop us from barricading logging trucks.

I thought then how powerful these loggers are. They were the ones who should be arrested because all of their logging activities were all illegal. They were cutting trees in the hinterlands with an altitude of more than 1,000 meters above sea level which is against environmental law that prohibits logging in areas with that altitude.

In fact, they were cutting trees in Mount Kintangland and Mount Kalatungan Ranges with an altitude of 3,000 meters above sea level. How come they were allowed to do so and were in fact given Timber License Agreements and transport permits?

They also violated the environmental law that prohibits cutting of trees in hilly areas which have 50 percent gradient in slope. Flying several times over these denuded areas courtesy of Air Force helicopters have shown hills with more than that gradient, that’s why the Sendong floods gained momentum coming from those hills.

In the issuances of Timber License Agreements, it was a basic requirement for the loggers to do replanting. Again, such had not been done by these TLA holders, the loggers, as the 150,000 hectares denuded areas are without a single tree standing.

They were powerful then as these logging trucks were escorted by armed men. They were untouched then who could blatantly carry out their illegal activities as many were in their payrolls, i.e., officials as arrogantly boasted by the 2nd Lieutenant logger, the late DestyEleazar when I confronted him in the barricade area, after being ordered to show me his logging papers after we successfully stopped his logging trucks. If I remember right, he said, “You cannot stop me because 50 percent of the personnel in that office are in my payroll not to mention law enforcers.”

Well, that is Res Ipsa Loquitor. Why? How come the plunder of our natural forest went on without let-up through several decades in utter violations of existing laws? Read the words on the wall behind the Judge’s seat in the courts of law, “Let justice reigns ‘though the heavens fall.” Read our law books expressing that in this country, no one is above the law; all must bow down to the majesty of the law because the Philippines follows the rule of law and not of men. That is totally untrue with regard to the environment.

We may escape penalties in violation of man-made laws but not the punishment for violating the laws of nature which are also the laws of God as the sins of a few loggers are now visited upon our people. And where are these loggers? Well, many are still in power. Is this the reason why, instead of them being made accountable, it is the people who should now pay for the environmental services?

And to top it all, these denuded areas, instead of being rehabilitated to regain back our ecological and food security will be planted with palm oil trees as proposed by Sec. Ramon Paje, “to turn 8 million hectares of idle, denuded and unproductive lands into palm oil plantations.”

Well, I have no qualms in shifting from fossil fuel to renewable energy as such shift has become imperative to mitigate climate change. In fact, because of that, there is now a tremendous pressure on land. But such should be done not at our own expense. The rich countries have already taken so much from us, turning our lands into massive plantations while polluting our watersheds with so much non-biodegradable toxic chemicals. This time, we must prioritize food because “it is a crime against humanity,” to quote a World Bank top official, for the people to be hungry with so many malnourished children, yet, giving more importance to bio-fuel.

The warming of the earth is primarily due to destruction of the ozone layer because the rich countries followed a dominant development paradigm (elite capitalism) that sacrifices mother earth and the people to the altar of greed and profit. Now these capitalist countries are shifting at our own expense?

Yes, there may be tremendous earnings for the country from the eight million hectares of the palm plantations which would be about P8 billion even then food and ecological security is more important than money as human and ecological capital must prevail over financial wealth. Meaning, that money must be used to enhance for the well being of the people and the environment rather than make more money. Talking of income, well we are bothered by the report that 70 percent of the GDP in 2012 went only to the pockets of 50 families and so I guess.

With all due respect, we, in SULOG, pray for the honorable DENR Secretary to reconsider such plan. We appeal that those loggers who have violated environmental laws should now be made accountable because the crimes against the environment should have no prescriptive period because these crimes were committed no only against the present generation but more so, against the future generations.

Indeed, the natural resources and the ecosystems are only ours to protect for the coming generations! But at the rate that we have exploited our resources, we have robbed our children of their inheritance.

Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on June 04, 2014.

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