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HomeNationContestEcological Wealth Should Be Controlled by the People

Ecological Wealth Should Be Controlled by the People

Kim’s Dream Orlan Ravanera
No to “Extractivism” thru Oligarchical Control!

Some well-known environmentalists from the United Stated visited the Philippines in the 1980s and lived near Mt. Kitanglad Range for three months to study the environmental scenario in the country. They were so amazed to see monkey-eating eagles hovering above the radiating trees and Tarsiers jumping from one tree to another. Their report concluded that the number of flora and fauna found in the 5,000-ha. Mt. Kitanglad ecosystem is far greater in number compared to those found in one billion-hectare continent of North America. Wow, so amazing!

Such environmental report had served notice to one and all then how ecologically rich the Philippines before as there were species of flora and fauna found only in our country, thus endemic only in the Philippines But that was before. Ecologically, our country has gone down the drain in the last century and has lost millions if not billions of biodiversity species. We have even lost our ecological security, even becoming now the 4 th hardest hit country in the world on climate change. What happened? Why and how did we lose 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 thousands if not millions of years but disappeared in just several decades of plunder?

The natural ecological 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 United Nations-Food and Agricultural Organization (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 Peoples, the peasantry, the fisherfolk are now the poorest. Who controls? Who decides? Who benefits? Environmental experts and social scientists have concluded that the root cause of the plunder is because our country has been subjected by powerful oligarchs 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 centuries to come!”

Yes, we have the finest timber in the world which is only found endemically in our country, commanding gargantuan profit tor 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 heavy raking and even used to buy votes as many loggers were voted as mayors, congressmen, governors and even as senators. Thus, from 17 million hectares of natural forest, only half a million hectares remain. As the natural forest vanished from the face of the earth, thus the billions of flora and fauna which had been living in the forest ecosystems for millions of years. The forests are the “invisible water dam,” that supply water to the rivers.

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 massive siltation and destruction of our mangroves and coral reefs as only five percent remain is in excellent condition. Of the 25 major rivers in the country, 15 have already dried up. The millions of tons of top soil carried then by the rivers to the sea have killed the bays as 10 of the 13 major bays in the country are already biologically dead. This is the reason why the coastal communities are now living in hunger and becoming the poorest of the poor.

What is so horrible is what we have discovered when we were implementing the “Writ of Kalikasan,” issued by the Court of Appeals in 2013. As the Presiding Officer of the “Task Force Kinaiyahan,” we had arrested three Chinese nationals doing illegal open, hydraulic mining in a camp site in the uplands of Cagayan de Oro where we found hand grenades, AK-47 and Armalites. These Chinese nationals were just carrying papers as tourists. We were so puzzled why after their arrest, they were allowed to go back to China, even escorted by a local elected official. A month later, 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 are still scot-free. For firmly standing against EXTRACTIVISM, a brave environmental warrior was murdered by those who cannot moderate their greed! Now, do you understand why “Sendong” happened? Pang-gising po sa mga Pilipinong natutulog!

Extractivism is still continuing in another form. It is seen in the 200,000 hectare- plantations in Mindanao owned by Trans-National Corporations and Oligarchs using toxic chemicals heavily that as if some 2,000 dump-trucks of poison are being dumped to our water tables every day. Of the 8 chemicals used, 7 are already banned in other countries. In fact, you can “google,” showing the truism that many of these TNCs are not allowed to enter Puerto Ricoand Costa Rica anymore as these corporations have caused deaths due to cancer. As they were disallowed to enter these countries, these TNCs have gone to Mindanao as we have earned now and tagged as “the land of coward people!” Are you still wondering why many are dying of cancer and there are many deformed babies?

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 sufficiently supply our hungry people with basic staples like rice and milk as these staples are heavily imported.

As concluded by development experts, “extractvism is directly connected to the notion of sacrifice zone-places that, to their extractors, somehow don’t count and therefore are poisoned, drained or otherwise destroyed.” Indeed, the mindset of the colonizers and now that our country is a neo-colony by the super rich businessmen and oligarchs, it seems that such conclusion has some bearings. Ang mga Pilipino po ay TAO HINIDI BASURA!

Who will be the countervailing force to correct such oppressive economic paradigm? Well, social transformation must now be the call of the times and in a Democratic and Republican State,it is only through people empowerment that social change can be had. Indeed, social change has been so elusive all these years despite 14 years of Martial Law and two- people powered revolutions. the systems and structure breeding poverty are still as formidable as ever. Enough is enough of extractivism thru oligarchical control that has oppressed our people and drained our natural resources. We must heal the blighted land back to life – for people, planet, prosperity and peace – all for the greater glory of our Creator, the Unseen Being, now calling to us in the face of the cataclysmic anthropogenic (made-made) Climate Change. HOY GISING!!!

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