Not learning from Sendong and Pablo

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By Tyrone Velez


Wednesday, December 5, 2012

AROUND 50,000 people left homeless, a hundred declared dead and hundreds more missing, hundred thousand houses and buildings swept, farms and crops damaged. This is the wrath of Typhoon Pablo hitting three regions in Mindanao, on a bleak December day.

The death toll may be significantly lower than last year’s Sendong that hit Northern Mindanao, but the lessons are still to be learned. This time for Davao region where the governor in Compostela Valley admitted this storm was “totally unexpected” and caught the province flatfooted. In his province alone, 33 were reported dead in the town of New Bataan, 500 families of banana plantation workers in Compostela town are trapped in a packing house, hundreds more homeless.

But more than disaster preparedness and response, the telling sign on this tragedy is how human-made activities aggravate the disasters. In one TV footage of the floods, tons of cut logs coming from Compostela Valley and Davao del Norte found their way to the rivers in Agusan del Sur. This shows that logging activities are rampant in this side of Mindanao.


In reports last year, logging activities are found to be part of the activities of large-scale mining in Mindanao, this as part of its clearing operations for its exploration and operations. In the two regions hit by Pablo, Compostela Valley and Caraga, eight major mining projects by the government are underway either at exploration or starting to explore.

By pointing this out, the argument that climate change is to be blamed for disasters is debunked. The activities such as open-pit mines, agribusiness expansion and logging – which are rampant in Mindanao and attack the remaining 10% of forested areas – are the real causes to both climate change and disasters.

The way to stop the disasters is to strike at its cause. Sadly, these companies are being promoted by the government as it promises to bring cash for big companies and landowners. This is all true with President Aquino pushing for further mining liberalization with Executive Order 79 and enforcing sanctions on LGUs that oppose this order.

For that, “we face the consequence of greed from multinationals for our lands and resources” and that is death and destruction, so says Panalipdan Mindanao and Kalumaran in a statement. For this greed, these groups are now in Manila for the Manila Lakbayan since December 1 protesting the wholesale of lands and resources, and the repression and deaths of the people in Mindanao.

While we move now for relief and rehabilitation, may officials especially those in the national government heed the calls of the people. What good is gold when the people and the land are now gone.

Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on December 06, 2012.


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