Posts

National minority groups hold national assembly

National minority groups from all over the country gathered at the University of the Philippines in Diliman Quezon City last October 26 for the Second National Political Assembly of Sandugo (Movement of Moro and Indigenous People for Self-Determination).

They held a mass action in Mendiola in Manila in the afternoon.

Sandugo called for the ouster of President Rodrigo Duterte as they assailed the widespread human rights violations perpetrated by the state forces.

They cited the martial law in Mindanao that caused Marawi City’s destruction, the escalated number of killings of their leaders and organizers, as well as red-tagging, forced surrenders and illegal arrest.

They also condemned the continuous bombings and militarization of state forces that cause forced evacuation of Lumad and Moro communities.

The groups also scored the intensified plunder of ancestral lands of big foreign agricultural corporations and mining.

According to Sandugo, Duterte is subservient to the policies of imperialist countries such as US and China and surrendered the country for foreign plunder, including ancestral lands of minorities. # (Video and report by Joseph Cuevas and Maricon Montajes)

Would CASER have prevented mining disasters?

SPECIAL REPORT

By Raymund B. Villanueva

National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) peace consultant Randy Malayao can only shake his head as he looked at photos of the landslide in Itogon, Benguet last month that reportedly killed 69 residents, majority of whom were miners and their families. Initial reports said the tragedy was brought about by the torrential rains brought about by typhoon “Ompong” that wreaked havoc all over Northern Luzon. Eventually, however, it was accepted that the typhoon only triggered the disaster and that mining activities in the area—both large and small scale—was its main cause.

“It should not have come to this,” Malayao said. “This could have been prevented if only the Manila government listens to the people,” he added.

Since his release from prison as a political detainee in 2012, Malayao has resumed his work as a consultant of the NDFP’s negotiating panel, attending formal negotiations in Europe and reciprocal working group meetings in the Philippines and abroad. As the NDFP’s resource person from Northern Luzon, he is intimate with mining issues in his home region of Cagayan Valley, as well as the Ilocos Region and the Cordilleras. Environmental protection was one of his advocacies that made him a victim of abduction and intense torture in the hands of the Philippine Army. He spent four and a half years inside various jails as a political prisoner.

“The countless discussions I attended on what makes our people poor, especially the peasants, opened my eyes that environmental degradation contributes to their poverty, contrary to what has been promised them for more than a hundred years. Mining activities in Northern Luzon has made its people poorer,” he said.

Rescuers try to clear part of the landslide in Barangay Ucab, Itogo, Benguet that killed 69 residents. (Photo by Kim Quitasol)

The victims of the Itogon landslide are a case in point. Malayao said that mining activities, primarily when mining giant Benguet Corporation was active in the area, caused its forest cover to be denuded and its soil unstable. The landslide last month was only the latest in a string of similar incidents and it is unfair to blame the victims who he suspects are allowed to continue their activities with the consent of the company that still owns the mining licenses in the area.

Northern Luzon is one of the Philippines’ mining hotspots. Gold, copper, and molybdenum are mined in Nueva Vizcaya; gold and nickel are extracted in Isabela; gold has been mined in the Cordilleras for hundreds of years, and gold and magnetite (also known as black sand) are mined in the Ilocos Region and Cagayan Province’s coastal and offshore areas. As a mountainous area, the regions are also a prime source of sand and gravel as well as lumber. But despite the nearing depletion of its mineral wealth, it is agriculture that keeps the regions’ economy afloat. While it has enriched a few corporations beyond belief, mining has only kept many of its residents in poverty. Not a few have lost in their lives.

It was because of this situation that the NDFP has pushed for environmental protection, rehabilitation and compensation as one of the top agenda under the substantive issue of social and economic reforms of the peace negotiations between itself and the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP).

CASER and the environment

It was as far back as September 1, 1992 that both the GRP and the NDFP agreed in the document called The Hague Joint Declaration to discuss social and economic reforms to address “the root causes of armed conflict.” Both parties agreed that a Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (CASER) is a program that could end poverty and other social. It was only recently, however, that a section on environmental protection was finally approved, even if the issue had always been on the table for more than 26 years already.

“[NDFP’s] latest version of [its draft] CASER is the result of careful study and analysis started in the middle of 2016. The NDFP Reciprocal Working Committee on Social and Economic Reforms (RWC-SER) looked at the relevant experience and practice of the revolutionary forces in the cities and, especially, the countryside,” the NDFP said in the preface of its book on the peace talks agenda.

As expected, the NDFP had been scathing in its assessment of the state of environment in the

Philippines, especially mining.

“Corporate mining depletes our minerals as well as destroys forests and mountains. National minorities are displaced from their communities and ancestral lands. Critical resources for national industrialization are lost,” the NDFP said. “The profit-driven nature of capitalist production with the particular neo-colonial pattern of production and trade, that overrides social and ecological considerations has been the main factor in the devastation of the Philippine environment and the consequent disasters that have plagued the country,” the NDFP explained.

It may come as a surprise to most, however, that under its CASER proposal, the NDFP is not against mining. Rather, the NDFP says it is for responsible and pro-people mining.

NDFP urges environmental protection with economic development

For the NDFP, mining is not evil. It only becomes so because the environment is being destroyed by current mining practices and it only benefits members of the local ruling elite and foreign economic interests.

The NDFP said that environmental protection, conservation and the wise use of natural resources are necessary components of socio-economic development policies and that ecological balance is integral to national development.

By this, it means two things.

First, current destructive mining practices must be stopped and replaced with more environment-responsive ways. Not a few were amazed when the NDFP expressed full support to former GRP environment secretary Gina Lopez when she ordered the ban on open pit mining and a review of all mining activities nationwide. In turn, Lopez said she was willing to work with the revolutionary New People’s Army (NPA) in protecting the environment. This prompted the NDFP invite Lopez to attend the NDFP-GRP formal peace negotiations in Europe to present her views the Left said were in accordance with its programs on the environment.

“The desire of Gina Lopez to work with the NPA for peace and development is welcome by the NDFP.  It is directly related to the environment, agrarian reform and rural development now being negotiated under the substantive item Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms,” NDFP chief political consultant Sison said. “It will be fine if Gina attends the fifth round of formal talks,” Sison added.

Lopez told Kodao she would accept the invitation provided she would be confirmed by the powerful Commission on Appointments. “Yes, I’ll go,” Lopez said. “What I would want to do is to create models first than just talking.  What I would like to do is to work with the NPA and create models where we get people out of poverty in like six months to a year.  Then I’ll go talk to him (Sison): ‘Sir, look at what we did here. What if we do these everywhere?’” Lopez explained.

Lopez was eventually rejected by the CA and Duterte decided to not reappoint her controversial environment secretary.

Second, the NDFP wanted that upon signing of the CASER, most of the raw materials from the country’s mining activities would stay in the country to be used for its national industrialization drive. “The strategy of export-led economic growth has opened the country’s natural resource to control and plunder by the foreign monopoly capitalists, big comprador bourgeoisie and bureaucrat capitalists. As the imperialists and the local exploiting classes freely siphon off the nation’s natural wealth, they leave behind a ravaged environment, Industrial wastes like mine tailings and carbon monoxide emissions and unsafe agricultural products pollute and destroy the environment,” the NDFP said.

The group added that existing laws such as the Mining Act of 1995 mean the wholesale delivery of the national patrimony to the unbridled exploitation by foreign investors through the liberalization of the mining industry. They open the door wider to the destruction of the environment and the displacement of the national and ethnic minorities from their ancestral lands.

Under Section 2 of NDFP CASER’s principles of environment protection and economic development, the group proposes that the parties “…commit to pursue economic development with due regard to the protection and efficient use of the country’s renewable and non-renewable resources and to institute measures for ensuring a healthy national environment.”

GRP panel’s ‘surprising’ draft

It was not only the NDFP that sprung surprises in its environment protection drafts of the CASER. The GRP was not to be outdone when it submitted its own environmental protection, rehabilitation, and compensation draft after the fourth round of formal talks in Noordwijk An Zee in The Netherlands in June 2017.

“The GRP’s draft has many provisions similar to NDFP’s. While there are differences between their drafts and ours, there are enough similar provisions that could be the foundation of a favorable agreement on this issue,” an NDFP source told Kodao.

For example, on the issue of mining, the GRP RWC-SER’s draft said that the pursuit of economic development must integrate protection, efficiency, and just use of the country’s resources and ecology, including making sure that the carrying capacity of the environment is not breached.

Taking a cue from the NDFP draft, the GRP draft, under Section 6 of its draft Priority Actions for Sustainable Development and Environmental Justice, says that all mining operations are to be regulated “to ensure domestic processing of mineral resources, guarantee environmental protection and justice, safeguard mine workers, compensate communities for damages, uphold democratic consultation and the consent of communities, allocate mining revenues and benefits equitably, and charge the costs of mine maintenance, disasters and rehabilitation to the revenues of mining firms.”

Support from environmentalists

Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment national coordinator Leon Dulce hailed both the NDFP and GRP negotiators’ respective drafts as steps towards the protection of the environment and national development.

“What both parties have shown is that, at the very least, they were willing to discuss how mining could be more environment-responsive and beneficial to the Filipino people at the same time,” Dulce said.

Kalikasan said the country may have around 7.1 billion metric tons of metallic mineral reserves (such as gold, copper) and nickel) and 51 billion metric tons of non-metallic deposits. “The total revenue of these reserves may be worth US$1 trillion, ten times the country’s gross domestic product and 14 to 17 times larger than its entire external debt,” the group said.

Like the NDFP and GRP’s drafts on environment protection, Kalikasan seeks a reversal of the nature of the country’s mining industry.

“In forums and symposiums organized and attended by Kalikasan, including congressional hearings on the People’s Mining Bill (House Bill 2715, filed by Bayan Muna) that we are suporting, we have always said that the mining industry should be geared towards national industrialization,” Dulce said.

Kalikasan said that the mining industry should be redefined for the production of raw materials—such as base metals, basic chemicals and petrochemicals needed by the basic, medium and heavy industries—to produce as much consumer, intermediate and capital good with the country’s stock of finite mineral and non-mineral industrial raw materials and in the process provide jobs to the country’s vast human resources.

“In other words, our country should not be exporting everything that is mined within our territory because we need them for when we finally industrialize. And that may be possible if the GRP and the NDFP agree to sign a CASER and honestly implement it,” Dulce said.

The environmental activist also clarified that under both the NDFP and GRP drafts of the CASER as well as HB 2715, that the drafts are not necessarily against foreign mining corporations.

“I think these documents clarified that as long as these foreign mining corporations have no bad records and they agree to contribute to national industrialization, they are welcome,” he said. The People’s Mining Bill says that the State shall in cases allow foreign corporations to invest in the mineral industry.

“Based on the National Industrialization Program and the country’s capability and capacity, the government must identify the mineral areas where foreigners can help and invest subject to rigorous screening and strict regulations…The participation of foreign companies in the critical stages of mineral extraction and processing shall be in accordance with a mandatory program or agreement for technology transfer and equity shares that do not exceed 40 percent of the full capital requirements,” HB 2715 reads.

“Alas, the GRP principal (Duterte) is unwilling to continue the talks,” Dulce bewailed.

Wasted opportunity

Malayao agrees with Dulce that Duterte is wasting the opportunity to have an environmental protection agreement signed with the NDFP.

“I could not begin to describe to you the hard work put into crafting both the NDFP and GRP drafts on environmental protection under the prospective CASER. It was supposed to have been discussed as early as June 2017 by the negotiating panels,” Malayao said.

A signed agreement between the GRP and the NDFP is a binding and legal document, Malayao explained. Even without a final peace agreement, both the GRP and NDFP can already implement its provisions, as they did with their agreement on human rights and international law when they established a joint monitoring office in 2004.

“If the CASER was signed and implemented last year, perhaps extractive activities in Itogon, as well as in Naga City in Cebu Province, could have been more strictly regulated. Perhaps, the near simultaneous tragedies last month would have been averted,” Malayao said. #

 

Boracay

Ni George Tumaob Calaor

 

naghasik ka ng dahas at nilukob ng takot

yaring isla ng aking pangarap at yaong

pangarap

para sa aking mga supling

ay naging bangungot

sa karimlang aninag ay

hindik sa kanilang

kinabukasan.

 

yaong buhanging dati’y napakadalisay kay

pino at puti

buhanging kumakastilyo sa masagana naming

pamumuhay

buhanging sanay tumatawid sa aking mga

mahal tungong biyaya ng buhay

ngayon ay kinuwadrahan mo sa ganid ng

sakim at ginawang bihag ng pasismo

napaligiran ng mga aso mong bayaran—

gwardyadong-gwardyado

na tulad mong garapal na barbaro, kay

yabang pilit na itinataas pulburado mong noo!

 

ngunit huwag ka’t walang kinilalang bakal na

kamao

ang galit na mga alon ng sa mga kakutsaba

mong dayo

buong bangis at tahasan mong ipinagkanulo

 

ibinulong na ng hangin sa karagatan

ang himutok ng bulkan sa dibdib

ng mga inalipusta mo

 

at di maglalaon…

 

delubyo kang ililibing

sa lunod ng kalaliman

nitong paraiso!

 

at laya sa kalawakan, silahis ay ginto!

 

at timawa ng pagkapantay

ay kawalan ng uring lipunang…

 

rebolusyon ang magtatayo!

‘Cha-cha’ to worsen PH ruin, says group

By Melvin Gascon

Environment groups on Monday expressed concern over the proposed charter change by the Duterte government, saying the draft federal constitution bodes danger for the environment.

In a statement, Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment rejected the bid to change the constitution and replace it with one that would supposedly allow foreigners and political dynasties to gain full control of the exploitation of the country’s mineral resources.

“We resoundingly reject Duterte’s Cha-cha which would only open up more of our natural resources, lands, and coastal areas to 100-percent privatization and foreign ownership,” said Leon Dulce, Kalikasan national coordinator.

Kalikasan cited provisions in the draft constitution which supposedly removed the exclusive right of Filipino-owned companies to exploit the country’s natural resources.

Under a proposed federal system of government, natural resources will supposedly be under the control of regional republics, which, Dulce said, will most surely fall into the hands of the regions’ political dynasties.

Only worse’

The group thumbed down the government’s ongoing efforts to address ecological problems, saying these were “not commensurate” with the rate of environmental destruction the country is facing.

On the contrary, the Duterte government is “encouraging policies which threaten to exacerbate these losses,” Kalikasan said.

The group also challenged the government to protest the reported destruction by Chinese fishermen of corals and other marine resources in the West Philippine Sea.

“We are with the 80 percent of the Filipino people opposed to the Duterte regime’s continuing inaction over China’s continuing occupation and reclamation efforts in our water (and the) 90 percent of Filipinos who strongly believe retaking the reefs and shoals turned into islands are on just grounds,” Kalikasan said.

They slammed the Duterte government’s centerpiece of its environmental programs, the rehabilitation of Boracay island, as “a fake program”, as this was carried out with no concrete strategic plans.

“No concrete action has been taken on the still-permitted mega-casinos and big resorts, and attempts at independent investigations into the island’s situation are being prevented,” Dulce said.

Kalikasan also assailed the alleged failure of President Duterte to make good his promise to make erring mining companies liable for their violations against the country’s environmental laws.

“Duterte’s hogwash rants against the big mines are being contradicted by the actions of his own Mining Industry Coordinating Council (MICC) which is set to reopen and allow to operate at least 24 of the 28 big mines supposedly up for closure or suspension,” they said.

“More and more people will get to see for whom this regime indeed stands for: the mining oligarchs at the helm of his own (members of) Congress and Cabinet,” Kalikasan added. #

Warrior chieftain hostaged and tricked to surrender, Lumad say

The reported surrender of a legendary tribal leader last June 9 in Talaingod, Davao del Norte was an orchestrated gathering by the military that victimized the ailing and elderly chieftain, Lumad organizations and leaders said.

Lumad organizations Salupongan Ta ‘Tanu Igkanugon and PASAKA Confederation of Lumad Organizations in Southern Mindanao Region said Datu Guibang Apoga, who led the Manobo’s successful resistance against logging and mining operations at the Pantaron Mountain Range, did not surrender nor spoke of giving up their struggle to defend their ancestral land.

“In his speech delivered at the assembly, Datu Guibang Apoga spoke of his desire for the Lumad schools to continue to serve his people. Owing to his failing health and increasing age, he spoke of what he perceived as his inadequacies as the tribe’s tribal chieftain,” Salupongan said in a statement.

“Nowhere in his brief discourse did he speak of surrendering his conviction nor did he endorse the demise of his tribe and his people,” the group added.

The 10th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army (IDPA) said Apoga was a member of the New People’s Army (NPA) who has defected to the military by turning over his M16 rifle to Brigadier General Ernesto C Torres Jr AFP, Commander of the 1003rd Brigade during the ceremony.

Five hundred Lumads witnessed the event, the military said.

“After more than two decades of being ‘out’ and having been legendary among his circle for his political efforts in supporting the NPA, Datu Gibang is now back to Nasilaban. His surrender would definitely hasten the clearing of areas in and around Talaingod from CPP (Communist Party of the Philippines) and NPA influence,” the 10th IDPA added.

Pasaka chairperson Kerlan Fanagel, however, said Apoga was lured into attending an assembly of about 150 Lumad only, orchestrated by the paramilitary group Alamara and the military.

Fanagel said Apoga was “hostaged and pressured” by the overwhelming presence of the military.

A downcast Datu Guibang presenting a rifle to a group of euphoric army officers. (Philippine Army photo)

“In his brief speech, Datu Guibang never said mining operations may already be allowed on Pantaron and their Lumad schools should already be closed,” Fanagel told Kodao, quoting Salupongan council officers and members present at the event.

Fanagel said Rural Missionaries of the Philippines paramedics tried to approach Apoga to give him a physical check up but the octogenarian chieftain was constantly surrounded by the military.

Fanagel added that based on the chieftain’s medical history, they suspect Apoga to be suffering from a kidney ailment.

Apoga and other Manobo chieftains in Talaingod launched a pangayaw (a tribal war) in 1993 to prevent logging operations by the Alcantara & Sons (Alsons) corporation.

Apoga and the other datu (chieftain) formed the Salupongan ‘Ta Igkanugon (Unity for the Defense of Ancestral Land) fought off Alsons’s private army and the military with native weapons and old rifles and won.

The government, however, ordered the arrest of Apoga and 25 other datus and have since been hunted by the military, until June 9.

Salupongan said the government has failed to sway its members by deceiving Apoga into attending a tribal assembly that turned into a fake surrender ceremony.

“[The government] has grown desperate in quelling our ranks in the last few months, first by pouring an overwhelming number of state forces in our lands by three Army battalions, second by campaigning for the closure of community schools and harassing community teachers, students and parents, and third by finagling Datu Guibang as a surrendered leader,” Salupongan said.

Apoga (center, third row) looking sullen as a military officer leads a collective reading of an oath. (Philippine Army photo)

Apoga’s fellow Talaingod chieftain, Bai Bibiyaon Ligkayan Bigkay said the military and the paramilitary Alamara used Apoga’s frail health and advanced age into “pressuring” him to a “staged surrender ceremony.”

In a statement, Bibiyaon rallied the Manobo people to remain unfaltering in defending the Pantaron Range, reminding them of their decades of resistance against military operations from Alsa Lumad and Alamara since the 1990s.

“Many more leaders from among our people who continue to suffer from hunger, government neglect and military abuses will rise to continue Salugpongan’s legacy of resistance. Hence, to all the Manobo and lumad people, our resolve must remain unfaltering like the Pantaron on which generations of our people have lived and depended on for generations,” Bibiyaon said.

“We must prevail for as long as the causes of our oppression continue to persist and deny us of the right to live with dignity,” Bibiyaon said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

 

A woman who ‘squeezed men’s balls’ in defense of her homeland

By Kimberlie Ngabit-Quitasol

BONTOC, MOUNTAIN PROVINCE–Today, May 31, Petra “Ina Tannao” Macliing, a pioneering indigenous woman leader who stood against corporate greed, development agression and martial law was laid to rest in her beloved Mainit village in Bontoc, Mountain Province.

She is far from being “weak and meek”—as President Rodrgio Duterte said women are. She is not just an indigenous woman leader but a fierce warrior.

In the 1970s, women from Mainit village bared their breasts as they confronted engineers of a mining company that intended to operate in their ancestral land. Baring breasts among the Bontoc are believed to hex unwanted strangers in their communities. The engineers left.

The leader of the warrior women was Ina Tannao who passed on last May 25, 90 years old at the time of her passing.

This story about Ina Tannao and the Mainit women is a tale retold in gatherings of women activists to illustrate the lengths Cordillera women will go to protect their homeland from aggressors.

Ina Chamgay Tay-ug was with Ina Tannao when the women drove away the mining engineers. She vividly remembers that day but struggles now to remember the date.

“Tannao gathered us women that day. She told us we will be the ones to stop [the mine] from destroying our mountain,” she related.

Ina Chamgay said the women climbed the mountain where the engineers were drilling, and “stripped naked like Tannao told us.”

“We dared them to harm the womb from where they came,” she said.

After driving the engineers away, the Mainit women raided their camp, took all of their supplies to the town center and left these there to rot. “We did not eat their food. We just wanted them to leave,” Ina Chamgay said.

The Mainit women’s chants are still being shouted in political gatherings today: “Uray maid armas mi/ armas mi nan ima mi / estawes, esta-gawis/ ikmer mi snan fitfitli, fitfitlin na raraki/ estawes, esta-gawis!” (We may not be armed/ but our hands are our weapons/ We use our bare hands to squeeze balls, the balls of men.)

Despite having similar names, Ina Tannao is not related to Cordillera hero Macli-ing Dulag, the Butbut tribe pangat (leader) in Kalinga who was assassinated in 1980 for opposing the Chico River Dam project of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos. But like Dulag, Ina Tannao also actively opposed the World Bank-funded Chico Dam project and fought the entry of mining ventures in her province.

Ina Tannao did not confine herself solely to the concerns of her village. She attended bodong (peace pact) conferences where the pangats from the Bontoc and Kalinga villages discussed the impact of the Chico river projects, Joanna Cariño said, founder of the activist group Cordillera Peoples Alliance. These conferences unified the Cordillera against the dam project, corporate logging in Abra province and Marcos’s Martial Law.

From 1981 to 1983, Ina Tannao helped form the Cordillera Bodong Association and became the only female pangat. Ina Tannao also helped form the Kalinga-Bontoc Peace Pact Holders Association in 1979, a federation of tribal leaders and peace pact holders.

Ina Tannao lost her husband early and was left to raise eight children. Her only son died at a very young age.

She earned a living on the farm or by tending to a sari-sari store in order to put her seven daughters through college.

Lawyer Franscesca Macliing-Claver, her youngest child, said she was three months old when her father died. “She was the only parent I have known,” she said.

Ina Tannao once told her children a story about a couple who offered to adopt their youngest sibling, Claver said. “I was that baby. The couple came with baby clothes and feeding bottles, ready to fetch me. But my mother refused to give me up,” she said. “My sisters used to tease me that I was destined to have a different surname.”

Georgia Velasco of the Cordillera Elders Alliance (CEA) said she met Mother Petra in early 1980s when the older woman encouraged her peers to take adult literacy classes. “She valued education and learning and never stopped learning and sharing what she learned to others,” even though Mother Petra never attended college, Velasco said.

Ina Tannao helped organize her fellow literacy students into a farmers organization. At the age of 70, she helped form the Cordillera Elders Alliance in 2006. She traveled to the Cordillera provinces to speak to fellow elders about their continuing struggle for social justice.

“If she did not suffer from dementia and was still alive today, she would have opposed the misogyny of President Duterte,” Cariño said.

Macliing’s contributions to social transformation is recognized by local and international bodies.

On May 29, Sagada officials headed by Mayor James Pooten personally handed to the Macling family a council resolution honoring Mother Petra. The resolution recognized her leadership in the Cordillera people’s struggle against the Chico River dams, Cellophil logging, entry of mining in her Mainit village and against Marcos’s dictatorship. “Let her noble accomplishments serve as an inspiration to the present and coming generation,” the resolution read.

In 2009, Macliing was honored as among nine awardees for outstanding rural women of the world of the Women’s World Summit Foundation’s Laureate Prize for Rural Women. She was recognized for her pioneering work and invaluable contribution to the Cordillera people’s struggle for indigenous people’s rights to their land and to self determination. The WWSF Laureate Award honors creative and courageous women for their contribution in improving the quality of life in rural communities, for protecting the environment, transmitting knowledge and standing up for human rights and peace.

In 2012, Macliing was one of the six Filipino women awarded by the Asian Rural Women’s Coalition during the 5th International Day of Rural Women for advancing and promoting indigenous peoples rights and civil rights; for combating violence against women and for seeking better treatment of the rural poor, political prisoners, farmers and children.

Current CPA chair Windel Bolinget said that while they mourn Ina Tannao’s passing they celebrate her life, “a life well lived”. He said that she set a shining example for the younger generation to follow.

Bolinget challenged everyone to follow Ina Tannao’s example in defending the Cordillera homeland from development agression and continue her work for social justice and national freedom.

“For there is no greater tribute to Ina Tannao but to continue what she has started in the defense of the Cordillera homeland, advancing the right to self-determination and genuine autonomy,” Bolinget said. #

Saving Taliptip

by Leon Dulce

Obando Fishport was bustling with activity at 6:00 in the morning. A colorful and tightly packed flotilla has gathered, fishing boats carefully slipping and sliding past each other to get their turn at docking.

 The bustle slowly fades to an idyllic backwater as we travelled via pump boat to the coastal village of Taliptip in Bulakan town, Bulacan province. Its surrounding seas is life to some 5,000 mostly fishers and salt-makers. It is from the gentle waters and mangrove corridors where they get their bounty of fish, mussels, crabs, shrimp, and krill.

On this collection of small island communities, a 2,500-hectare reclamation project by the San Miguel Corporation is being aggressively pursued, threatening to convert everything in its wake into a an aerotropolis complex of airports, expressways, and urban expanse.

 The project was a well-kept secret from Taliptip’s residents until concerned environmental advocates and church workers raised the issue among the communities—and until President Rodrigo Duterte was seen in the news already inking the project’s deal.

 Residents, especially the families who have lived in the village over the past 80 years, are concerned that their life and livelihood are under threat by this project.

A fisherman tending to his nets in Taliptip. Photo by Leon Dulce/Kalikasan PNE

“So long as the sea is here, there is hope…What will we fish when all this is turned into cement?” said Arthur*, a fisherman from Sitio Kinse, an island community of Taliptip ensconced in a dense shroud of mangroves.

 Arthur shared that the average fish catch for a day would net them around 500 pesos. Deductions from their gross income will be used to defray gasoline and other expenses and pay their boat consigner’s share. During the dry seasons, some fishers tend to the salt fields and get 154 to 254 pesos as payment per sack depending on the quality of the salt.

 A good day’s catch is a rarity nowadays, however. Gloria*, a woman resident of Sitio Dapdap, explained that fishing families usually stock up their live catch in makeshift pens and sell these on a weekly basis. A daily trip to and from the central market in Obando is simply too expensive compared to the dwindling daily catch.

A section of the Bulakan Mangrove Eco-Park. Photo by Leon Dulce/Kalikasan PNE

The hardships push the people of Taliptip to be sustainable by necessity. Living off the grid, residents pooled their resources to set up solar panels and batteries for their simple electricity needs. The residents take care of the mangroves since the shellfish they harvest live among its roots, and serve as a natural barrier to big waves.

 Aside from a 25-hectare eco-park established by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), various other stretches of mangroves are spreadt across Taliptip’s waters. A huge population of birds such as terns, egrets, kingfishers, and swallows make a home out of these trees.

A plethora of birds roosting over makeshift structures put up by fisherfolk. Photo by Leon Dulce/Kalikasan PNE

It is not hard to see the importance of these coastal greenbelts. The National Economic Development Authority (NEDA), the lead agency that approved the reclamation project, however, apparently has a diametrically-opposed view.

 San Miguel has pronounced that it can payroll entirely for the P735.6-billion aerotropolis, a hefty price tag that must have been the clincher. That amount seemed enough to justify ignoring the thousands of people set to be displaced and the ecologically critical vegetation to be converted.

A portion of a stretch of mangroves allegedly cut by San Miguel personnel. Photo by Leon Dulce/Kalikasan PNE

Early this year, the Duterte government also signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Dutch government to cooperate in the crafting of the Manila Bay Sustainable Development Master Plan (MBSDMP). The cart came before the horse, however, with projects such as the aerotropolis rapidly progressing without the guidance of a comprehensive sustainable development and management framework.

San Miguel personnel were reportedly behind a massive mangrove-cutting spree in Taliptip two weeks ago. Communities had no idea if the cutting had a special tree cutting permit from the DENR, as required by law.

 Almost 30,000 hectares of such projects presently cover the entire length of the bay.

A fisherman off the port of Obando. Proposed reclamation projects span the entire coastline of Manila Bay. Photo by Leon Dulce/Kalikasan PNE

For Arthur, defending the only livelihood they know from the real threat of reclamation is non-negotiable. “We will not leave our homes. We will fight so long as there are people supporting us and giving us strength to fight,” he declared.

Environment groups and churches are digging in deep with the communities for the struggle to save Taliptip and various other communities across Manila Bay. Will Duterte stand with the people and stick to his rhetoric against reclamation, or will he bow once again to the oligarchs it has vowed to stand up against?#

= = =

Leon Dulce is the national coordinator of the Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment (Kalikasan PNE). Follow the local people’s struggle to save Taliptip on Facebook, or through the hashtag #SaveTaliptip on Twitter.

*Real names withheld for security purposes

 

 

 

Homeless, jobless, and penniless, residents resist closure of the Philippines’ Boracay island

Residents and workers of the Philippines’ Boracay island are speaking out against the government’s order to shut down the world-famous resort destination for six months in order to carry out renovation work that includes the upgrade of the island’s obsolete sewerage system.

With the signing of Presidential Proclamation 475 on April 26, 2018, the country’s president, Rodrigo Duterte, placed Boracay under a state of calamity — a move which formalized the tourist island’s temporary closure, and which several groups are petitioning the court to invalidate.

Appellants at the Supreme Court questioned the constitutionality of what they deemed to be an arbitrary decision by the president. They also sought a temporary restraining order on the closure and eviction of businesses on the island.

Authorities have justified the shutdown as part of its efforts to purportedly “rehabilitate” the island amidst environmental woes. But after it was reported that the government had initially approved the construction of two mega casinos on Boracay, many people questioned this rationale.

Still, the closure has been pushed without any prior master plan for rehabilitation, or any strategy to minimize its effects on the livelihood of those who live and work on Boracay, many of whom will be forced to relocate. The massive lay-offs have already affected thousands of workers.

The Friends of Boracay Facebook page highlighted the negative effects of the shutdown on people’s lives — and livelihoods. These online testimonies have been included in the statements gathered by civil society organizations during a fact-finding and solidarity mission they conducted in and around Boracay and Aklan province between April 16-19, 2018.

Some of these organizations include Bayan-Aklan, Friends of Boracay, Tabang Aklan Action Center, Gabriela Panay-GuimarasThe Center for Environmental Concerns, the Iloilo Pride Team, and the National Union of People’s Lawyers.

One tour guide shared how the closure of Boracay will affect his family:

Photo by Friends of Boracay, used with permission by Global Voices.

“I am a Boracay tour guide. I have been in Boracay for 11 years. What’s happening to us is very painful; there are 2,000 of us tour guides. We have no regular wages because we work only on a commission basis. I went to the Labor Department because of the closure. I have social security, which I have been contributing to for six years. I asked if I can apply for a calamity loan, just so I have a budget for food. I live in a cardboard house in the Wetland. Our question is, will there be alternative employment? We are idle, yet we need to eat every day. I have three children and I send them money in Bacolod. We need financial assistance.”

A resident recounted the aggressive behavior of authorities who were sent to issue eviction notices to small businesses and resort owners on the island:

Photo by Friends of Boracay, used with permission by Global Voices

Sir, we would like to tell the story of what they did to us here. We were served [by the government’s environment ministry] a Show Cause Order and Notice to Vacate. When they came, they were accompanied by five policemen in fatigue uniforms carrying long firearms. We were panicking because there were children. They went back and forth among the houses. They gave us 15 days to vacate our homes.

A single motor operator had a similar experience with the police:

Photo by Friends of Boaracay, used with permission by Global Voices.

“People already don’t have work, yet they still do things through intimidation. Which leads us to ask, are we included in the demolition? There are no more passengers; we go round and round but get no income. Will we be bulldozed like dogs and left to sleep on the ground? Of course, we will not resist if we are demolished, they are heavily armed. We have nowhere to go. We have feelings and we are very afraid because they are armed.”

Sand artists insisted that it is the government’s own actions that created the problem in the first place:

 

“We cousins have been making sand art for four years. We are from Boracay. We are not destroying the island. Those building the big buildings who were given permits by the [government’s environment ministry] are the ones destroying Boracay.”

One Facebook post echoed the views of many who are concerned about the plight of the displaced:

“As an advocate for the environment I want it rehabilitated too… BUT I BLEED MORE for the people who are affected by the closure because of lack of planning and foresight on the part of the government in ensuring that safety nets are in place prior to closedown.”

According to the initial fact-finding and solidarity mission report, 40% of the island’s population have received notices to self-demolish and vacate their residences. These notices came from state employees who were accompanied by heavily-armed policemen, over 600 of which have been deployed to the island days ahead of its scheduled closure.

In response to the outcry, President Duterte has threatened the permanent closure of Boracay — but workers, residents and their supporters are not backing down. They continue to defend their livelihoods, and oppose the entry of big casinos into the island. # (Karlo Mongaya/Global Voices)

(This article was originally published by Global Voices. Kodao is a Global Voices’ Philippines partner.)

Boracay

By George Tumaob Calaor

 

you have planted seeds of terror

that sprouted fear in the island

of my dreams turning the dreams

for my children the nights of nightmares

of their horrified future?

the sands that used to be so pure and white

the sands where I used to build castles of our lives

the sands that bridges me and my love ones across to the brighter sides of life

is now a captive of your greed and tyrant device

turning it into an embering grave of my love ones dreams!

guarded by the dogs of your howling scheme!

so proud and unashamed!

but don’t ye for you cannot hold the anger of our tides

and winds shall whisper our weeping to the oceans and our broken pride

and ask the waves to surge our cause to the fullest of their heights

and swallow you like drifted wicked and fascist souls from the beach of our paradise

as freedom like sun rise of gold, on its victorious revolt, so equal shall rise!

‘No plan, no heart’ in Boracay closure, envi group says

Environmental activist group Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment (Kalikasan PNE) held a picket Tuesday at the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) main office in Quezon City to protest the impending closure of Boracay island.

The group said the arbitrary six-month closure had no comprehensive scientific rehabilitation plan, but will displace thousands of workers in the process.

“Duterte’s Boracay closure order is like bar-drunk swagger that had no comprehensive, scientific basis and no heart for the 36,000 workers it will displace. His yes men are struggling to come up with rehab, security, and even completely illogical land reform plans, but these cannot justify the full closure of the island,” Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment national coordinator Leon Dulce said.

“With no comprehensive rehab plan whatsoever, we see Duterte’s closure order will benefit the only Boracay projects that have full plans and in full implementation, the Chinese-backed mega casinos,” Dulce added.

The environment group noted that the planned casino of Macau-based Galaxy Entertainment will be built on an inland forest area of Boracay and still has a provisional permit from the government in effect up to present.

“What kind of environmental rehab plan would allow the conversion of native tree forests into a mega casino? Despite the Department of Tourism’s claim the Galaxy casino is searching for a new location, locals report the company’s local partners recently continued to acquire land in Boracay. The DILG’s guidelines on the closure do not even include a moratorium for new construction projects which makes the closure order even more suspect,” Dulce said.

Part of the protest action at the DENR Tuesday. (Kalikasan PNE photo)

A Fact-Finding Solidarity Mission (FFSM) was conducted last week by environmental groups and people’s organizations to investigate the circumstances and effects of the impending closure of Boracay on the people.

The Center for Environmental Concerns (CEC) was among the groups that joined the mission.

“Despite repeated requests by various organizations and even media outfits, President Duterte and the DENR has not yet divulged any plan or paper which details how exactly they are going to embark on rehabilitating the island, or as to why they arbitrarily chose six months as the supposed recovery period,” CEC researcher Lia Alonzo said.

“There was not even a public consultation held prior to Duterte’s verbal pronouncements on closing the island. Up to the present, there is still no order or legal basis for the closure,” she added.

Kim-Sin Tugna, of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN) – Aklan, who was also part of the FFSM, reported that the deployment of 630 fully-armed police only sowed fear and terror among the populace.

“Despite the absence of a writ of eviction, which can only be issued by the courts, the DENR escorted by police forces have been asking residents to leave since their houses were said to be built on wetlands. The residents wondered why they were being evicted now when they have been paying taxes for the land they were occupying,” Tugna said.

“The intimidation of the police in fatigue uniforms and bearing high powered rifles caused fear and panic among the residents. During our public consultation, residents reported to that the police told them that they will ask for the deployment of soldiers and turn Boracay into a ‘new Marawi’ if the residents will resist,” Tugna added.

“Although the rehabilitation of the Boracay is indeed much needed, any move to help the islands heal should also not leave behind the livelihood concerns of the residents who have no other means to earn decent income in the first place,” Dulce said.

“But with a casino to be built on Boracay’s forest itself, the closure order only reveals that the Duterte regime’s environmental pronouncements are a sham. Moreover, we castigate the Duterte regime for enforcing its arbitrary closure order using draconic and dictatorial methods which only terrorize the people,” Dulce concluded.#