Kim’s Dream Orlan Ravanera
Hear the Cry of the Poor & of the Dying Marine Life
No less than His Holiness Pope Francis said in Lau DaTu Si for us to hear the cry of poor and of Mother Earth that certainly include the cry of the poor fishing communities and of the fishery & marine life in the bays. Every time I see Macajalar Bay, I remember lines of a beautiful poem which begins with, “Rage,rage, rage, against the dying of the light . . .” Deep inside, I feel the pain and the anger not because of the dying of the light but in the impending death of an ecosystem whose beauty is both awesome and humbling. Yes, the grandeur that is Macajalar Bay, from Sulawan Point in Laguindigan to Punta Gorda in Balingasag, speaks well for itself, But that same grandeur is fast disappearing as it undergoes progressive state of impairment and with it, the marginalization of the coastal populace. Unlike before when fish would literally jump into their “bancas,” fish now can hardly be caught .
Why? What are the fatal blows that is causing the death of what was once a mighty ecosystem?
The bay has been treated as a waste pit. First is industrial pollution. Chemical waste from industries and factories are just dumped in the bay. These wastes poison sea life and even entered food chain. The bay is also a victim of soil erosion and massive siltation. What men do in the uplands affect the life in the sea. Because trees were cut through massive illegal logging in the last 5 decades, hundreds of thousands of hectares in the uplands are already denuded and soil has been eroding that destroyed mangroves and coral reefs. The massive illegal mining, open pit-mining including hydraulics have worsened the condition of the bay,
The final death blow that is really killing the bay silently are the chemical fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides heavily being used in the surrounding plantations and farms which are washed from the soil into rivers and into the bay. In the opening lines of the poem, “Charge of the Light Brigade,” there are “cannons at the left of them, cannons at the right of them, cannons facing them.” Such is true in Macajalar Bay , not cannons but vast plantations. Every day, these plantations are applying chemicals at every stage: applying Nematicide during land preparation, Phosphoric Acid (fungicide) during pre-planting. Immediately after planting, they apply Durion and Ametryne. Tons and tons of chemical fertilizers are applied as basal then bombarding the growing crops with foliar fertilizer at 1,500 kgs. per hectare. Of the 200,000 hectares of plantations in Mindanao, about 48,000 hectares are surrounding Macajalar Bay, multiply these by 1,500 kgs. per hectare, it is like 100 trucks dumping chemicals every day in the Bay. Ultimately, these chemicals find their way into the bay and of course into our water table as these toxic chemicals are non-biodegradable.
These chemicals are ingested by fish that cause their sudden death, and if the fish survive with carcinogenic elements in them, these are bio-magnified that find their way into our bodies when we eat fish. Are you still wondering why many are dying of cancer In Cagayan de Oro? Indeed, these chemicals poison sea life and even entered food chains.
Many of our fisherfolk can attest to the fact that when it rains, many fish float dead in the rivers and in the sea. Worse, we strongly suspect that the water table may be already contaminated by these toxic chemicals. In fact, no less than the former Regional Executive Director of the DENR, my best friend Dr. Raoul Geollegue claims that our drinking water may have already been contaminated. If that is so, then, we can aptly say, “drink now, die later.” Following the precautionary principle, we in Task Force Macajalar, an Environmental Coalition for Peace, Justice and Sustainability, have been clamoring that our water table be examined as the Cagay-anons may be drinking or bathing or using water for cooking which is already contaminated with these toxic chemicals. But until now, such plea fell on deaf ears. One day, the people of Cagayan de Oro will wake-up and only then that such horrible reality be promptly checked or face the collective anger of the deceived people.
In Malaybalay, an ordinance has been passed a decade or so ago, disallowing these plantations to expand because so much harm has already been done to ecological integrity. The Cagay-anons are still in deep slumber on this issue.
This time with sense of urgency, let us hear the cry of the coastal communities from Laguindigan to Balingasag, as they are now living in hunger and extreme poverty. As attested by them, the fishery life before had been so abundant that fish would just literally jump into their “bancas,” but today, even after hours of fishing, fish can hardly be caught and they can not fish for so long as it will mean wasting expensive fuel. Thus, they just go home early and the children will understand the bad news – no fish again, SO GUTOM NAMAN. What is even more horrible is that some of these fishing communities were so puzzled why they are being charged in court for staying in their respective coastal communities as their foreshore areas have been issued land titles by rich influential people. This is true in Misams Oriental, in Molugan and in Alo, El Salvador. The fisherfolk were asking the DENR, WHY ARE THESE FORESHORE AREAS BEEN ISSUED LAND TITLE WHEN APPARENTLY SUCH CANNOT BE ISSUED LAND TITLES AS THE FORESHORE AREAS THAT THEY HAVE BEEN OCCUPYING FOR MORE THAN 50 YEARS ARE APPARENTLY CANNOT BE TITLED BEING FORESHORE WHICH BEFORE WERE UNDER WATER. THROUGH THE YEARS, THEY HAVE GATHERED STONES AND BUILT RESIDENTS TO MAKE THE FORESHORE LIVABLE. In Alo, the issued Title was nullified by the DENR but in Molugan, the residents are still being sued in Court by the daughter of a former Logger, Evelyn Roa Clavano. The fishing communities have already written the President of the Philippines to rectify such social wrong. In Molugan, they were so aghast because the DENR and the BFAR have allowed GAISANO to build a big “BODEGA” within the bay that had destroyed the mangroves and coral reefs.
Indeed, there is so much veneration to the profit-motive that has sacrificed the bay’s marine and fishery resources to the altar of greed and profit, at the expense of the poor fishing communities, now living in extreme poverty. NOW IT IS TIME TO HEAR THE CRY OF THE POOR AND OF THE FISH!