FROM that of being a “paradise” on earth oozing with ecological wealth a century ago as 70 percent of the total land area was forested, the Philippines can now be described as the “Lost Eden!” Of the 17 million hectares of dipterocarp forests that was home to mega-diversity as one tree alone could house then some 130 species of flora and fauna, only seven percent of the natural forest remains.
Indeed, where have all our forest gone? Gone to powerful loggers everyone, many of whom have been elected to high position (mayors, governors and even to Congress and Senate) as one shipment of logs alone would earn a logger 360 million pesos and through these heavy rakings, money were used to buy votes or to pay those who should enforce environmental laws. A logger was boasting in the 80s that some 90 percent of those in an office that should enforce the laws was under his payroll including policemen and judges!
Would someone contest such contention? That was in fact, “Res Ipsa Loquitor”! Almost all of the logging activities then were illegal as there are laws that prohibit logging in altitude with more than 1,000 meters above sea level or in slope with more than 50 percent gradient. The 300,000 hectares “Kalatungan Range” in upper Cagayan de Oro, Iligan and Bukidnon should have not been logged at all and these areas belong to those mentioned prohibited categories. But six logging companies perpetuated their greed and their sins are now visited upon the poor and the vulnerable settlers as 3,000 people died because of “Typhoon Sendong” on December 17, 2011.
Illegal mining activities had worsened the ecological scenario as heavy equipment like bulldozers and backhoes had erased whatever was left of our ecological integrity. If indeed, Bohol has “chocolate hills,” we have chocolate rivers causing “death blows” to Macajalar Bay due to massive siltation, worsened by “hydraulic mining” operations.
This is not only true here in this part of the country but happening all over. Don’t you know that of the 13 major bays in the country, 10 are already biologically dead? Of the 25 major rivers, 14 are dead already! So many bridges, look below and you’ll see dried rivers!
While the Philippine Archipelago has been described as the “center of the center of marine life on earth,” but that is not the case anymore. Fishery and marine resources had gone down the drain and the fishing communities are becoming the poorest of the poor. Why? What really happened? Well, don’t you know that in the 70s, it was martial law year time and there was this RP-Japan Treaty of Amity, Commerce and Navigation which allowed the highly computerized vessels to rake our seas. The final death blows to our seas were done by Canada, Australia and South Korea that treated the Archipelago as their “wastes pits” of highly hydrated and toxic garbage.
Not only our seas are dumping grounds of highly cancerous wastes but this is also true to our watersheds. Don’t you know that out of the 14 chemicals used by the 200 thousand plantations in Mindanao, 8 are already banned in other countries? Don’t you know that many of these corporations are being sued in Puerto Rico for causing cancer to the workers and had been kicked out from that country that is why they are here in Mindanao and are continue expanding?
Many of our babies now are being born without fingers and many are already suffering from cancer, yet, none is being done to rectify these wrongs. Are we really a nation of coward people? In fact based on studies, we Filipinos are already transformed into “self-gratification machines,” so enamored in self-promotion, trivialities, external looks and giving high veneration to “dramas” on television that have already captured our mind as perpetuated by the mainstream media that is just giving us imagery and illusions.
“Pasayawin mo lang ang isang guapong kandidato, panalo na! Di ba nasa Probinsyano Yan, panalo na rin kahit walang alam.”
As the world is changing profoundly knowing that phenomena such as gross inequality, decline in social justice, crisis in democracy, ecological turbulence due to climate change and violent extremism are unfortunately becoming ordinary, we are now mandated to rectify such dysfunctions brought by the contemporaneous development paradigm. This can only be done by harnessing the people’s collective power through cooperativism.
This was actually in the mindset of the framers of the 1987 Constitution right after the EDSA Revolution, which was to institutionalize “people power” by promoting the viability and growth of cooperatives as instruments of equity, social justice and economic development. This basically emanated from the highest law of the land basic declaration that “in a republican and democratic State, sovereignty lies with the people and all government powers emanate from them.”
Indeed, the root cause of poverty, gross iniquities and social injustice is the POWERLESSNESS OF THE PEOPLE and the only countervailing force is by harnessing their collective power! That is the RAIZON D’ ETRE of the theme of the Cooperative Month Celebration, “Cooperativism a Countervailing Force Against Climate Change and Violent Extremism through People Empowerment to Trailblaze Shift in Paradigm Towards Sustainability and Social Inclusion!” That is the essence of cooperativism that has now come of age! Join us!