TODAY, thousands of cooperative leaders coming from all over Mindanao are attending the Summit to bring to the fore the glaring realities besetting the bountiful, but broken island of the brave and the free. They will serve notice to one and all the call: We must act now or we will all perish due to climate change and violent extremism.
Social scientists are one in concluding in their studies that the root cause of poverty in the Philippines especially in resource-rich Mindanao is not the lack of resources, but in the powerlessness of the people to have access and control over their resources and utilities which are fast slipping through their fingers.
That Mindanao is oozing with ecological resources is of no question. Based on the Study of the United Nations’ Food and Agricultural Organization (UN-FAO), per unit area, Mindanao is the richest on earth in terms of biodiversity.
The 5,000-hectare Mt. Kintanglad in Bukidnon is the home of flora and fauna whose number of biodiversity is far greater in number compared to those found in the one billion-hectare continent of North America. The richness is not just found above the ground. Beneath are some 72 kinds of minerals.
In addition, the Philippine Archipelago has been described by the UN-FAO as the “center of the center of marine life on earth.”
Amidst the abundance loomed so much poverty.
Based on the Study of the United Nations’ Development Program, the poor in Mindanao are the poorest through-out the nation. Of the 25 poorest provinces, 14 are in the Mindanao and are suffering from high poverty gap ratios.
It is in Mindanao that you see thousands of hectares of pine-apple, banana, palm-oil and what have you that are feeding the consumerist lifestyle of the people in the North while hunger is evident in the South. Hunger is glaring in Mindanao, an island that has been called as the “food basket” of the country.
What a paradox?! In fact, according to the Food and Nutrition Institute, some 28 percent of the Filipino children are malnourished, 27 percent are stunted, and 30 percent underweight.
How about our indigenous peoples? Well, they have become “squatters” in their own native land as the ancestral land which their forefathers had occupied for hundreds of years are now converted into massive plantations.
These are the “blessed lands” of our indigenous peoples and these are the choicest of land. According to a Study of the Development Academy of the Philippines, some 63 percent of Mindanao is now under the control of Trans-National Corporations (TNCs) and our IPs find themselves farming marginalized and highly steep mountainous areas. “Gamay lang nga tulod, ang kabaw moligid na.”
The “blessed lands” have ceased to be so because these lands, where plantations have loomed, reek with poisons, having been bombarded for several decades with multifarious toxic chemicals, 8 of which are already internationally banned (based on the examined samples of water, air and soil in Davao.)
Certainly, these chemicals are carcinogenic, the reason why cancer has become a common disease of the Mindanawons.
As for our fisherfolk, they are the ones catching fish, yet their children are hungry as malnutrition is highest in the coastal communities. This is so because the grandeur of the Philippine bays is now fast disappearing as they undergo 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 the once mighty marine and fishery ecosystem? Well, the bays are treated as waste pits. First is industrial pollution.
Chemical waste from industries and factories are dumped in the bays. Other silent killers are the internationally banned chemical fertilizers and insecticides which are heavily used in surrounding plantations.
These non-biodegradable, petroleum-based agricultural inputs are washed from the soil into rivers and into the sea, entering food chain and polluting the watersheds.
I am very certain that these toxic chemicals are already in our water system, in the water that we drink or bath and water we use for cooking. Other countries have banned these chemicals, why are these being used by big plantations? Are we Filipinos guinea pigs? It is about time that we stop these plantations?
For heavily using these toxic chemicals that have harmed the health of the people, some of these plantations are barred to operate in their own respective countries. In fact, in Puerto Rico, some of the well-known corporations operating in Mindanao have already been charged legally for causing cancer.
That is the reason why they are operating (and expanding at that!) here in the Philippines particularly in Mindanao. What a tragedy! That’s how passive the Filipinos are as the Philippines has been described as “a nation of cowards.” Gumising na po tayo!
All told, the above-cited realities are some of the horrors of social injustices that have been rammed down the throats of our oppressed but struggling people.
Apparently, the victims include the ecosystems that provide the life-support systems to our ecological people in defiance of the Constitutional Principle (Article II, Section 16) that, “The State shall protect and advance the right of the people to a balanced and healthful ecology in accord with the rhythm and harmony of nature.”
Unless we rectify such, there can be no genuine development. Only mal-development that sacrifices the people and the environment to the altar of greed and profit!
The only countervailing force against social injustices is not violent extremism but through cooperativism as it is categorically provided for in the highest law of the land (1987 Constitution) that “the State shall advance cooperativism as instrument of equity, social justice and economic development.
For those who have dreamt, struggled, advocated, sacrificed and even died for it, social change has been so elusive all these years despite 14 years of martial law and two people-powered revolutions.
The ingredients, structure and systems breeding poverty are still as formidable as ever. But not anymore under the present dispensation.as advanced by His Excellency, Mayor Rodrigo Roa Duterte.
This Mindanao-wide Summit will harness the collective power of the people to effect the much needed transformation for people, planet, prosperity, and peace, crafting the people’s action plan for ecological integrity, food security and poverty alleviation. Join us!