Looking beyond floods and relief-A A +A
By Tyrone Velez
Wednesday, January 23, 2013
A DAY before the Sunday floods hit Davao, one speaker in a forum by the group Balsa Mindanao said that another disaster like Pablo might happen again with the extent of climate change.
No sooner was this said when the Sunday floods hit Davao del Norte, Davao Oriental and Davao City. Footages of people in Davao City panicking and wading through waist-deep floods, of houses in Jade Valley Subdivision submerged up to the roof, and the raging Davao River reaching the floor of Bankerohan Bridge brought the horror of climate change before us.
Balsa Mindanao responded to the disaster in Davao City, mobilizing nuns, teachers and youth volunteers for its “People’s Kitchen”, providing lugaw and pastil for the evacuees, particularly in Matina Gravahan, Bankerohan, Tigatto and far-flung Waan in Buhangin district.
While Balsa Mindanao and other efforts seek to address the immediate needs of displaced communities, Balsa Mindanao also wants to look into the deeper issue of social and climate justice. As Balsa Mindanao convener Sr. Noemi Degala SMSM says, "We do not want to flirt with danger, we are not happy to be giving relief all the time. We want to live in a country spared by disasters."
Panalipdan Southern Mindanao notes that climate change is happening, and it severely impacts the poor. It is an injustice that commercial and industrial operations of corporations such as large-scale mines, coal powered plants, logging and plantations contribute to climate change yet the poor and marginalized are the ones facing the devastating effects as seen in Sendong, Pablo and this recent Davao floods. The group also underscores the role of the military in protecting these plunderous corporations resulting to deaths of environmental activists, most of them are Lumads.
Companies engaged in large scale mines and logging are accountable for the recent disasters, as their operations led to massive deforestation over the decades. Scientists said that to prevent the typhoons, at least 56% of forest cover is needed in an area. Yet, we only have less than 10% forest cover remaining due to massive cutting of trees and conversion of land. In Davao Oriental, there are 16 timber licenses and 31 mining tenements, and one can see the devastation as cut logs have battered two more bridges in Cateel and Caraga. Compostela Valley also has 43 mining applications and tenements including the Philco Mining in New Bataan.
Looking at the flooding in Davao City, the 17 barangays hit by the flood that lie along the Davao River, which swelled after days of heavy rain. Most of the 39,000 victims are informal settlers, who migrate to the city due to the perennial problem of landlessness in rural areas, now aggravated by large scale mining, plantation expansion and forestation. Such companies are again accountable for the settlers' plight.
There is an urgent call to come out with a city zoning plan that will address the issue of flooding and urban land reform which includes a comprehensive housing program for the urban poor.
Aside from this, there should be more socio-economic reforms for the informal settlers such as decent jobs, education, health and other social services.
Multinational corporations must be stopped now. As one environmental activist says, "change the system, not the climate.
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Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on January 24, 2013.