IT HAS been said 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.
Well, four decades of painful struggle to protect the integrity of the environment that saw us in Task Force Macajalar staging human barricades to stop the illegal flow of logs, to stop illegal fishing and illegal mining activities have clearly and categorically proven that there is no such thing as rule of law with regards to the environment. It has long been the rule of money, the rule of those in power, the rule of the guns and the diabolic rule of the all-powerful loggers and miners who have made tremendous money raking by the hundreds of billions of pesos. Don’t you know that one shipment of logs alone would earn a logger three hundred sixty million pesos which they would use to buy votes when they run for mayor, governor, congressman or even senator. If you want to know more, please read the book of MaritesVitug, “Power from the Forest.”
How about the rule of the guns? Well, may I tell you this. In 1991, after successfully launching human barricades against logging, we held three logging trucks owned by the late 2nd Lieutenant Modesto Eleazar. Because of that, he was hunting us together with his goons and boasting to my brother, Atty. Manuel Ravanera that we would not be able to escape because his guns called “starlight” can see the target even in the dark, getting the light from the stars.
By God’s grace, we were shielded from those powerful guns as we firmly believe that only God can tell us when to die. A grenade had been thrown to us but the “trigger” did not hit the “primer” after taking out the safety pin because a toothpick-like bamboo got in between that saved us. So we concluded, ‘if you have faith even as small as a mustard seed, you tell the grenade not to explode, it will not explode.” Yes, it was indeed a miracle affirming the biblical line that if God is with you, who can be against you.
Indeed, protecting God’s vanishing creation is the highest form of worship. So we all knelt down in thanksgiving and declared, to God be the glory.
Yes, all logging activities then in the uplands of Cagayan de Oro, Bukidnon and Lanao were all illegal as these were all done in prohibited areas. The 200,000 hectares of dipterocarp forests in Kalatungan Range should have not been logged as these were situated more than 1,000 meters above sea level. Logging in areas 1,000 meters or more above sea level is prohibited by forestry laws. Slope with more than 50% gradient should not be logged but the same provisions of the law had been wantonly violated as pictures we have taken from the helicopter showed how the loggers plundered all of the trees in these prohibited zones.
There are laws that prohibit the cutting of hardwood species such as narra, red lauan, almacega, mahogany, etc. but all of these kind of trees had been wantonly cut as these command higher prices in the international market.
Indeed, where have all our forest gone including our megadiversity? Gone to loggers everyone. Our endemic flora and fauna, only found in the Philippines and which have been there for billions of years, have been massacred by the ruthless loggers and all their cabal of vested interest!
Yes, five decades of plunder had reduced our forest ecosystem to nothing, rendering the lives of the people of Cagayan de Oro and nearby municipalities at high risk, that man-made disaster had killed 3,000 people in one night of flooding called Sendong and had rendered 11,000 homeless.
Now, where are the loggers? They are well ensconced in their mansions, wallowing in power and wealth. They have not even done re-planting which is a fundamental requirement in the issuance of the Timber Lincense Agreement (TLA) issued to six logging companies, namely;Dacudao, Roa and Sons, Vicmar, TIPI, RemediosFortich, T.I.P.I., and Valderama and Sons. I believe that they must be made accountable because the crime against the environment does not prescribe. Kalatungan Range has become a monument of shame, manifesting the diabolic nature of man whose kind of development is only successful in sacrificing mother earth and the people to the altar of greed and profit.
But there is a law of nature that says there is no free meal in nature. What we do to nature will come back to us. Yes the ingredients of disasters are very glaring. According to scientific analysis, one inch of rainfall in the 200,000 denuded uplands will be converted to one meter when these rains reach the 200- hectarewater basin inCagayan de Oro City. So if the rains in the uplands will reach 10 inches, so 10 meters pag-abotsaCagayan de Oro.Bisankunoang Gaisano di namakita. All the twelve tributaries are flowing towards Cagayan de Oro river to overflow in the city.
Yes, even with a strong army, a country that has no ecological security is not secured at all. What happened in that fateful night of Dce.17, 2011 when Sendong hit Cagayan de Oro because of man-made disaster is a strong warning. Let that serve notice to one and all that the people are now fully awake and must do everything to make pre-emptive move! Yes, one Sendong is Enough!