SULTAN Abdul Ayunan Amoran, the brigade commander of the North Eastern Command of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) of the 6th Special Force Unit based in Maguing, Lanao del Sur with some five battalion commanders and MILF combatants of some 1,400 brave warriors have stopped their rebellion through armed struggle. They are now harnessing their collective power through cooperativism to be a countervailing force against poverty, hunger, social injustice, ecological turbulence due to climate change and violent extremism. Indeed, cooperativism is the one to uproot the cause of war by empowering the poor and the vulnerable so that they can be drawn into the mainstream of development processes.
What is so amazing is that the good Sultan is half Higaonon and half Muslim, thus, his followers come from the Indigenous People and the Moro People. He gathered the Higaonons in Sitio Kibulag, Lantod, Talakag, Bukidnon on February 8, 2020 for a meeting to organize them into cooperatives. With me then was no less than a passionate Tesda Technical Specialist, Madam Wilma Tomada Bathan, based in the Central Office under Secretary Isidro Lapeña. She had met the Brigade Commander at his camp in Lanao del Sur in 2018 to introduce the President Duterte's Program called the End Local Communist Armed Conflict (Elcac). From then on, no more armed conflict, only cooperativism. Madam Wilma is so kind and compassionate as she always brings gifts especially to the Indigenous Peoples (IP) children and women every time she visits the IPs.
While the Cooperative Development Authority will facilitate in cooperativizing them, the Tesda will conduct the much needed trainings to capacitate them and enhance skills on the technical, management, financial and livelihood development. This is so because in cooperativism, what matters is the human capital and the development of full human potentials is the key to socially inclusive, economically viable and ecologically sustainable development. Indeed, this partnership of Tesda and CDA will go a long way to make life better for the IPs.
Sitio Kibulag in Lantod, Talakag is where you find the most wonderful Mindamora Falls, which is even more beautiful than the known Maria Cristina Falls. But that was before six logging companies conspired with those who were to enforce environmental laws and made so much rakings that in the past five decades, massively logged Mt. Kitanglad and Mt. Kalatungan Ranges. During those years in the 90's, the heights of illegal logging operations, I had taken pictures from the Air Force helicopter where in the middle of the forest above Mindamora Falls were sawmills of the loggers. After knowing all these atrocities committed against Mother Earth, we together with the IPs staged direct actions through human barricades from 1991 to 2000 to stop the flow of logs numbering 50 10-wheeler logging trucks passing every night until dawn when all were asleep. The armed loggers threw hand grenade (M2K2) to us but it miraculously failed to explode because if God is with you, who can be against you?!
Well, we were not afraid then to loss our lives as the amazing beauty of nature is the reflection of the Unseen Being, the manifestation of the Creator. What you adore inside the church is never the image of Christ as such portrayal of His image was just the imagination of Leonardo Di Vinci, the painter.
The Mindamora Falls is sacred to the IPs. The magnificence of the continuous flowing of radiating water coming from the watershed while above are monkey-eating eagles hovering above the green scenery of trees that house Tarsiers jumping from one branch to another is an incomparable beauty that is worth dying for. Indeed, protecting God's vanishing creation is the highest form of worship.
Today, 200,000 hectares of once-upon-a-time, the home of billions of flora and fauna, are now totally denuded!!! That was the greatest massacre of all life forms in the dipterocarp forest that had been there for thousands, if not, billions of years and in just one century, got erased from the face of the earth by loggers who could not moderate their greed. In fact, in one shipment of logs alone of these finest trees in the world (Narra, Red Lauan, Mahogany Almacega, etc.), these six logging companies would earn some 360 million pesos. One of these loggers became the City Mayor of Cagayan de Oro, the governor of Misamis Oriental and even becoming a congressman. Well, he had all the money then to buy votes.
Indeed, the sins of a few loggers are now visited upon our people. Don't you know that an inch of rainfall coming from the 200,000-hectare Kalatungan Range will be one meter of flood when the water reach the 200-hectare Cagayan de Oro City. Ten-inch rainfall in Kalatungan range means ten-meter high floods from 8 tributaries all flowing to converge in Cagayan de Oro River, drowning all along the way. That happened on December 17,2011 when Typhoon Sendong hit the City where in just one night of flooding, 3,000 people died, mostly the poor living in the vulnerable areas.
While thousands laid dead when funeral parlors ran out of coffins, these loggers were well ensconced in their mansions. If only these loggers followed environmental laws, we could have not lost our ecological security. Let notice be served to one and all that even with a strong army, a country without ecological security is not secured at all.
But how come we have lost 17 million hectares of dipterocarp forest making the Philippines the 3rd hardest hit country in the world by climate change? Were not our dipterocarp forest protected by environmental laws? Don't you know that there are laws that prohibit logging in areas above an altitude of more than 1,000 meters above sea level or in sloppy areas with more than 50% gradient? Almost all our forest areas in Lanao, Cagayan de Oro, Bukidnon are in those categories, thus, logging should have not been done. Isn't it that in this country no one is above the law, all must bow down to the majesty of the law because we follow the rule of law and not of men? That is just plain rhetorical as it is Res Ipsa Loquitor (the thing speaks for itself) as far as logging is concerned.
Yes, we did not inherit the environment from our parents; we own this to our children. But at the rate that we have exploited our ecosystems, we have robbed the children of their inheritance which is only ours to protect for the coming generations.
For the ecological people headed by Sultan Abdul, we must now heal the blighted land through people empowerment by organizing the IPs into cooperatives. Pity the poor IPs, the forest in their marketplace, the source of food and their pharmacy, the source of herbal medicine. Now that the forest is gone, they are hungry and when they are sick, they cannot afford the high cost of medicine.
Indeed, Gaia (Mother Earth) has been sacrificed to the altar of greed and profit. In a world where there is so much veneration to the profit motive that has captured the minds of all institutions, universities and even the Church.
As human beings are now so enamored in so much materialism and consumerism, let us reflect for a while and feel the Unseen Being in nature. Yes, the earth is sacred to our people. Every radiating tree, every blooming flower under the warmth of sun or under the shining moon and twinkling stars at night while birds hovering above and the outpourings of waters down the waterfalls nearby with the sound of the flowing rivers in harmony with the singing of birds, the amazing music of nature is the voice of the Creator.
The former MILF combatants are now shouting, "HEAL THE BLIGHTED LAND BACK TO LIFE OR WE WILL ALL PERISH." Cooperativism is the answer as it is for people, planet, prosperity and peace. Indeed, ALLAHUAKBAR (God is great!!)