THE cooperatives whose DNA is that of being sustainable must now be concerned with environmental realities besetting our country. Do we still have ecological sustainability as we have already lost the 17 million hectares of our dipterocarp forest? All of us are acutely aware that we are now in the catastrophic stage of our existence as the Philippines is the 3rd hardest hit country in the world in terms of ecological turbulence that had rendered thousands dead even in just one night of flooding.
Yes, we have no more ecological security and we must all be aware that even with a strong army, a country that has no ecological security is not secured at all. How about our water?
Of the four (4) elements of nature (fire, water, wind and earth), it is water that symbolizes life simply because there could be no life anywhere else in the cosmos without water. Water is so essential, so precious that we sometimes can’t help but be poetic about it. Indeed, “the passion of the heart burns so hot that without the cooling breath of the lungs, the flames of the heart would devour not only itself but also the entire world. Thus, next time you drink a glass of water, or bathe, or shower, or wash your hands, next time you pass a river or a stream, a lake, or an ocean, think of the healing merciful powers of water.”
For those who are residing in Mindanao, those poetic lines may not apply as water may not have a healing power at all but may in fact, mean sickness or perhaps, slow death. Why is this so?
Well, agricultural companies operating thousands of hectares of vast plantations on top of the eight sub-watersheds in Bukidnon which comprise the Cagayan de Oro watershed are heavily using chemicals as fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides to mass produce fruits. This method of farming called “conventional agriculture” that relies on the massive use of chemicals is still the mode of production in our country even such has already been banned in neighboring Asian countries for the harm done to the environment and to the health of the people.
There are even chemicals already banned abroad but are still being used in our country. How’s this? What is bad for the Japanese or Koreans is good for the Filipinos? That smacks of discrimination, isn’t it?
Before I be accused of sounding a false alarm, it is but proper to raise this point scientifically and categorically.
There is a law of nature that says, “Everything goes somewhere else.” Based on that principle, it is my contention that all these non-biodegradable toxic chemicals, while vanishing from our sights, are finding their way in the air, into our water-table, and ultimately, into our bodies. Don’t you know that the more than 200,000 hectares of plantations in Mindanao are using toxic chemicals heavily that as if 2,000 dump-trucks of toxics are being poured to the watersheds daily?
Some chemicals don’t just seep down unnoticed to the watershed; these are washed down the river then, to the sea, particularly Mercury used to extract gold in the uplands of Cagayan de Oro. Mercury is ingested by small fish and the small fish is ingested by big ones. In each food chain, mercury is bio-magnified; when the big fish with bio-magnified mercury is made as “kinilaw” “singuba” or “sinigang,” again, there is bio-magnification in our bodies that would cause cancer or heart attack. I wonder how many have gotten cancer or died of stroke not knowing that these carcinogenic chemicals are the culprit.
Our watersheds, rivers, air and soils are already contaminated with toxic chemicals. In fact, it is already in the news lately that in Davao, “eight kinds of pesticides, seven of which are banned internationally, were found in the air and water samples obtained from the rivers and the communities of Tawantawan, Manuel Guaianga and Daliaon Plantations, all of which are situated near banana plantations”
Water samples have been checked and found to be contaminated in Davao. Cagayan de Oro is similarly situated like or even worse than Davao, being surrounded by thousands of hectares of plantations using chemicals intensively. The only difference is that water examination has been conducted there, we have yet to do that in our beloved City to check on how contaminated our water is.
As you know, many are now afflicted with all kinds of cancer and many babies are now being born deformed, without fingers, or arms or legs. It is my contention that a pregnant woman must avoid drinking from the contaminated watershed. This means that even with an iota of doubt or suspicion on whether the water is contaminated with toxic chemicals or not, we must not waste a single minute and act with sense of urgency to demand to the concerned agencies to check on the quality of water. Just in case the water has some toxic elements, God forbids! Counter measures can be had to protect the health and life of hundreds of thousands of people in the city.
Water is life; if it is contaminated, it becomes a poison, a harbinger of death.
Thus, next time you drink a glass of water, or bathe, or shower, or wash your hands, next time you pass a river or a stream or lake or Macajalar Bay, be wary but this time, let us join the advocacy of cooperatives, imbued with a firm collective intent to fight for our inherent and constitutionally guaranteed right for a healthful and balanced ecology. Only then can we think of the healing power of water and not anymore, drink now and die later.