ON SEPTEMBER 5, 2019, thousands of Indigenous People, farmers and cooperative leaders from all over Mindanao will converge in Xavier Gym, Cagayan de Oro to attend the Mindanao-wide Summit on how to regain back our ecological integrity. The importance of such an even need not be underscored anymore. We were shocked no end when some 3,000 people died and 11,000 families were rendered homeless on that fateful day of December 17, 2011. Sendong has left an indelible imprint, serving due notice to one and all that indeed there is no free meal in nature. The pains that we are inflicting on Mother Earth are now making all of us accountable, exacting a heavy toll through ecological disasters that are becoming harsher and harsher.
We must now face the stark realities that we have lost our ecological security because we have failed to do our role as stewards of God's creation. We know that even with a strong army, a country that has no ecological security is not secured at all.
Yes, we are now very much vulnerable to ecological disasters and we fear for our dear lives every time Gaia (Mother Earth) manifests its ire. The horrible crimes we have committed against Her are unforgivable. Her "lungs" -- the forest -- are almost all gone. We are guilty of a massive massacre that have erased our mega-diversity, the highest in the world which are endemic only in the Philippines. Her "veins" -- the rivers are either polluted or have no water at all. (In fact 25 major rivers in the country are already biologically dead. Her "blood" -- (the lakes, seas, watersheds) are heavily silted or polluted.
Now, we feel Her pains, as we have become the latest victims of our own misfeasance, malfeasance or nonfeasance in protecting God's vanishing creation. Unknown to many, those whose very lives are dependent on nature have long been silently suffering from the massive destruction inflicted upon the ecosystems. These are our ecological people composed of our Indigenous People, our famers, our fisherfolk and the women.
For 23 years now, since Task Force Macajalar was barricading logging trucks to protect our remaining forest and was conducting nightly seaborne patrol to protect our bays, we have been advocating no end on the pitiful plight of our ecological people in losing our forest, our rivers and our seas. Task Force Macajalar is a coalition of some 300 people organizations of the ecological people.
Our Lumads who were coming all the way from the hinterlands of Cagayan de Oro, Lanao and Bukidnon were one with Task Force Macajalar in articulating their sad flight. We lost our forests and the Lumads lost their homes, their "pharmacy" and their "marketplace." Yes, you could find then, in the forest limitless supply of herbal "medicine" and limitless supply of food, especially, "usa" and "baboy damo."
Thus, when the six powerful logging companies were allowed to level-off some 500,000 hectares of dipterocarp forest in the upland of Cagayan de Oro, Lanao and Bukidnon through massive logging operations, our lumads have lost their homes where they have lived sustainably for thousands of years. Many species of plants, birds and animals, which have evolved through billions of years, have been extinct, erased from the face of the Earth, forever. Now tell me, if you were the Creator, will you not be angry? Now, you ask, will there be more Sendong? Perhaps, because, based on experts' estimates, for every one inch of rains falling on these vast denuded areas, such will be translated to one meter high of floods when these rains flowed down to Cagayan de Oro. So, now convert a 10-inch rainfall from hundreds of thousands of denuded areas flowing down to Cagayan de Oro. So, 10 meters? Bisan kuno Gaisano di makita. Horrible, isn't?
Pity our farmers. The balance of nature in the uplands has long been gone. Ang mais nila, murag sibuyas na lang kadako. Everytime floods go down to Cagayan de Oro, they are the first victims and so are their crops and livestock as well.
Pity our fisherfolk. During barricades against logging, not only were our farmers in attendance; the fisherfolk including women was in full force as well. Why?
The grandeur that is Macajalar Bay, speaks well for itself. But that same grandeur is now fast disappearing as it undergoes progressive state of impairment and with it, the marginalization of the coastal populace. Unlike before when fish would literally jump into their "banca," fish now can hardly be caught. Why? What are the fatal blows causing the death of this once mighty ecosystem?
Well, the bay has been treated as a waste pit. First is industrial pollution. Chemical wastes from industries and factories are dumped into the bay. These wastes poison sea life and even entered into food chain, including mercury used by the miners in Iponan area. Other silent killers are the chemical fertilizers and insecticides heavily used in surrounding plantations. These non-biodegradable petroleum-based agriculture inputs are washed from the soil into the rivers and into the sea.
How pitiful it is to see hungry children in the coastal areas living so near a once-upon-a-time abundant sea, with fish of every shape and hue. The final death sentence to the bay comes in the form of the thousands of tons of top soil that are being carried by the rivers to sea. These silts are wrecking havoc, destroying the most critical part of the marine ecosystem which are the mangroves, now almost gone.
Today, our fishermen have empty nets and even emptier look as delicate marine life is now disappearing.
How long shall we allow the death blows to our ecosystems by those who continue the massive exploitation of our resources with utter disregard for nature and for the welfare of the ecological people who are suffering the brunt of ecological destruction? Unfortunately, we have voted into power some senators who are sitting in the board of foreign mining corporations. When will we ever learn?
Unfortunately, we have allowed foreign corporations to economically invade Mindanao, either to transform the areas left by the loggers into massive plantations or to be mined endlessly. This time, we have never learned!
Today, the fury of nature is upon us now. Sendong has awakened us to the bitter reality that unless we heal Gaia back to life, we will all perish. Such awakening process was long in coming. The truth is, our ecological people have long been suffering in silence. A great injustice has been committed against them when our resources were exploited no end, causing their displacement, the loss of livelihood and even their very life.
The time of reckoning has now come. We must now save the environment and in so doing, save our ecological people from further demise. In so doing, we save not only them but our very own lives - all for the greater glory of God -- our creator! Please be one with us because protecting God's vanishing creation is the highest form of worship.