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HomeOpinion“Blessed Lands” Before, Now Massive Plantations

“Blessed Lands” Before, Now Massive Plantations

Kim’s Dream  Orlan Ravanera

The Many “Faces” of Social Injustice

Social injustice looms in so many ways in our country especially in resource-rich Mindanao where 14 of the country’s 25 poorest provinces are found and the five regions are suffering from high poverty gap ratio. It has become imperative to promote social justice but before we can do that, let us reflect for a while and know the horrible “faces” of social injustice in the life of the workers, farmers, fisherfolk, Indigenous Peoples and the “common tao” in a country that declares in the Fundamental Law (Art. II, Sec. 10) that, “The State shall promote social justice In all phases of national development.”

The workers are the producers of the wealth of the nation, yet, they live in dire poverty.  In fact, they are leaving in droves, as if jumping from a “sinking ship,” to find jobs in foreign lands leaving their love ones behind at so much social cost. Food comes from their farms but the dining tables of the farmers fall short of it, tilling lands not their own, and if they do, they are tied-up to costly seeds and technologies that adhere to conventional agriculture where everyone is profiting from farming, i.e., seeds and chemical/fertilizer dealer, compradors, usurers but not those doing the back-breaking job of farming – the poor farmers. They sell their products under the mercy of the “compradors” following an oppressive marketing system that makes their farming non-viable. Aptly described as the “unsung heroes” and the “backbone” of the nation, yet, they wallow inside the vicious cycle of poverty.  Such truism was reinforced by a Study of the UN-FAO that concluded that, “Philippine agriculture has just contributed .02% to the GNP in the last decade.” What makes it more painful is that there were agricultural programs before designed to somehow liberate them from their economic difficulties to increase their productivity, i.e. financial assistance for farm inputs and post-harvest facilities, yet, could not reach them as these are trapped in the pockets of those who could not moderate their greed.

For our fisherfolk, they are the ones catching fish, yet their children are hungry as malnutrition is highest in the costal communities.  This is so  because the grandeur of Philippine bays is now fast disappearing as the marine and fishery resources undergo progressive state of impairment and with it, the marginalization of the coastal people.  Don’t you know that of the 13 major bays in the country, 10 are already biologically dead and the poorest now are the coastal communities. Only 5% of our corral reefs and our mangroves, the spawning ground of fish, remain in excellent condition due to massive siltation from illegal logging and mining and due to industrial pollution as the surrounding industries are just treating the bays as their “waste pits.” The 200,000 hectares of massive plantations surrounding the bays that are heavily using toxic chemicals, i.e., pesticides, herbicides and chemical fertilizers are the final blows that have killed the bays in Mindanao. 

How about our 17 million Indigenous Peoples nation-wide, five million of whom are in Mindanao?  Well, they have become “squatters” in their own native land as their Ancestal Domain which their forefathers had occupied for hundreds if not thousands of years are now converted into massive plantations.  These are the “blessed lands” of our Indigenous Peoples which they have been occupying and tilling before in the spirit of service and sharing.  They maybe are primitive in the modern day context but they are spiritually and energetically advanced as their living cultures zero-in on the oneness and inter-connectivity of all species, be human or non-human. The so-called civilized soieties are actually spiritually behind as their being civilized  has advanced the whims and capriciousness of the mundane through non-stop unbridled materialism and consumerism, sacrificing Mother Earth to the altar of greed and profit. Progress has zeroed-in on the continuing pursuit of fame, wealth and power, all for self-gratification and aggrandizement which is contrary to the teachings of Krishna, Mohammed, the Buddha and Christ Himself when they categorically pronounced in their respective teachings, ‘DENY THYSELF.”

The non-stop takings of their ancestral domain through corporate globalization, not only in our country but globally, has been described by known social scientists and environmentalists globally as a great social injustice. To quote, Corporate globalization is based on enclosures of the commons, enclosures which imply exclusions and are based on violence. The “ownership” of the rich is based on the “dispossession” of the poor Indigenous Peoples.”

According to a Study of the Development Academy of the Philippines, “some 63% of Mindanao is now under the control of Trans-National Corporations (TNCs) and the Indigenous Peoples find themselves farming marginalized land highly steep mountainous areas. “GAMAY LANG NGA TULOD, ANG KABAW MOLIGID NA!” The “blessed lands” have ceased to be so because these lands where plantations have loomed, reek with poisons, having been bombarded for several decades with multifarious toxic chemicals, 7 of which are already internationally banned (based on the examined samples of water, air and soil in Davao). Certainly, these chemicals are carcinogenic, the reason why cancer has become  a common disease of the Mindanawons. We are aware that these corporations are operating some two hundred thousands hectares of massive plantations on top of the 8 sub-watersheds in Bukidnon using continuously chemical fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides for several decades now. In fact, on June 21, 2008 when a ship carrying thousands of bags of Endusulfan, with Del Monte as consignee, sank in the coast of San Fernando, Romblon.  That was the time when a public discovery came to being that Del Monte has been using Endusulfan.  Of course, we know that “Endusulfan is off-patent organochlorine insecticide and acaricide that is being phase-out globally because of its acute toxicity, potential for bio-accumulation.”

Yes, as already mentioned, the direct victims of the massive use of toxic chemicals are our fishing communities because unlike before when fish would literally jump into their “bancas,” fish now can hardly be caught.  But the victims of this grave social injustice are the Mindanawons themselves. WHY?  These are non-biodegradable, petroleum-based agricultural input  which are washed from the soil into rivers and into the sea, entering food chain and polluting the watersheds.  I am very certain that these toxic chemicals are already in our water system, in the water that we drink or bathe, and water we use for cooking.  Other countries have banned these chemicals, why are these being used by big plantations?  Are we Filipinos  Guinea pigs?  It is about time that we stop these plantations just like what they are doing in other countries.  For heavily using these toxic chemicals that have harmed the health of the people, some of these plantations are already barred to operate in their own respective countries.  You can look at this in the Social Media that will manifest that these corporations are not allowed anymore to enter Puerto Rico and Costa Rica.  Such is the reason why they opted to operate in the Philippines, particularly in Mindanao.  In Puerto Rico and Costa Rica, people there would stage rallies against these corporations, so they are now in the Philippines, the reason why they call the Philippines, ‘THE COUNTRY OF COWARD PEOPLE.”  HOY GISING!

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