The Philippines was so rich before but now so poor in terms of biodiversity, even becoming the 3rd hardest hit in the world of climate change. What happened? Why and how did we lost our ecological wealth described as the richest on earth, home to billions of life forms that had lived in the 17 million hectares of dipterocarp forest for millions of years but disappeared in just several decades of plunder?
The natural wealth was not just confined above the ground; under the ground oozed with 72 kinds of minerals, i.e., gold, silver, copper and what have you. The natural wealth did not stop at the shorelines as the archipelago had been described by no less than Dr. Kent Carpenter of the UN-FAO as the “center of the center of marine life on earth.”
So rich but so poor! What a paradox as our ecological people, the Indigenous People, the farmers and fisherfolks are now the poorest. Who controls? Who decides? Who benefits?
Environment experts and social scientists have concluded that the root cause of the plunder is because our country has been subjected to the economic paradigm called “EXTRACTIVISM,” a term originally used to describe economies based on removing ever more raw materials from the earth, usually for export to traditional colonial powers, where “value” was added.
During the American occupation, there was a big debate in the US Senate on whether to continue colonizing the Philippines, a country which is located in the other side of the earth. The statement of Sen. Larry Heaney did convince everyone not to leave the Philippines then as the “Forest of that country is so rich that it can supply the timber needs of the world for century to come!”
Yes, we have the finest timber in the world which is only found in the Philippines, commanding gargantuan profit for the colonizers then and continued by the loggers after the colonial rule. Each shipment of logs would earn a logger some three hundred sixty million pesos, money that they used to bribe government officials to continue their rakings and even used to buy votes as many loggers were voted as mayors, congressmen, governors and even senators. Thus, from 17 million hectares of natural forest, only half a million hectares remain.
After the plunder of the forest ecosystem, tremendous mining operations loomed as the culprit to extract minerals that had caused so much havoc in killing our bays and rivers due to the massive siltation and the destruction of our mangroves and coral reefs as only five percent is in excellent condition.
As the Presiding Officer of the “Task Force Kinaiyahan,” we had arrested three Chinese nationals doing illegal mining in a camp site in the uplands of Cagayan de Oro where we found hand grenades, AK47 and Armalites. These Chinese nationals were just carrying papers as tourists and after their arrest, they were even escorted by a local official to go back to China. After a month, our colleague in the environmental movement by the name of Fausto Orasan whom we called Datu Sandigan, the Chieftain of the Higaonon tribe in Cagayan de oro, was murdered by whom we believe were the armed men of the miners. That was in 2014 but until now, the killers were still scot free.
Extractivism is still continuing in another form. It is seen in the 200,000 hectares plantations in Mindanao owned by TransNational Corporations and Oligarchs using toxic chemicals heavily that as if some 2,000 dumptrucks of poison are being dumped to our water tables everyday. Of the 14 chemicals used, 7 are already banned in other countries. That is the reason why many are dying of cancer and deformed babies are born.
Yes, high value fruits are being extracted from our lands to feed the consumerist lifestyle of the people in rich countries while we cannot even supply for our basic staples like rice and milk as these are heavily imported.
As conclusion by development experts, “extractivism is directly connected to the notion of sacrifice zones – places that, to their extractors, somehow don’t count and therefore can be poisoned, drained or otherwise destroyed.” Indeed, that’s the mindset of the colonizers and now that our country is neo-colony by the super rich businessmen and oligarchs, it seems that such conclusion has some bearings.
Who will be a countervailing force to correct such oppressive economic paradigm? Well, it is cooperativism as its DNA is that of being members-owned, value-based and sustainable! Yes, we aim for development that is prosperous, socially inclusive and environmentally sustainable.
Enough is enough of extractivism that has oppressed our people and drained our natural resources. Cooperativism is the liberating force – for people, planet, prosperity and peace, All for the greater glory of our Creator, the Unseen Being that is now calling to us in the face of cataclysmic threats of climate change.
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