As the world commemorates Earth Day, environmental advocates and militant organizations linked arms and blamed the Arroyo government, for its aggressive promotion of mining in the country, and imperialism, for plundering the country’s natural resources in the name of profit, for the alarming rate of environmental destruction.
BY EMILY VITAL
Vol. VIII, No. 12, April 27-May 3, 2008
More than 200 environmentalists and members of people`s organizations marked Earth Day with a protest at the Department of Natural Resources and Environment (DENR) in Quezon City, April 22.
Clemente Bautista, national coordinator of the Kalikasan-People`s Network for the Environment (KPNE) , said, “Earth Day is a day for our environment, patrimony and most especially for the people of our land who struggle to protect the environment from narrow, senseless and profit-making objectives.”
Protests were also held in Cagayan Valley, Southern Tagalog, Bicol, Iloilo, Socksargen, Southern Mindanao regions.
KPNE noted that under the Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo government, seven major environmental disasters happened – 2001 Camuguin flashflood tragedy, 2003 Southern Leyte Landslide, 2004-2005 Aurora/Quezon landslide, 2005 Semirara oil spill, 2006 St. Bernard landslide, Guimaras oil spill, and Bicol mudslide. KPNE estimated that these disasters claimed 5,000 lives and caused damages amounting to P15 billion.
Frances Quimpo, executive director of the Center for Environment Concerns (CEC) blamed deforestation as one of the major causes of landslides and flashfloods in the country.
Trixie Concepcion, convenor of Defend Patrimony, a multisectoral alliance against the mining liberalization policy of the government, said, “The unbridled extraction of our minerals by private and foreign mining corporations led to faster deforestation and soil erosion in the country.”
Concepcion hit the ‘failure of the government to properly manage the environment and natural resources. “The government’s policies on mining and logging are oriented toward the extraction and commodification of our natural resources to serve foreign interests,” she said.
Dislocation of communities
Meanwhile, Joan Jaime, national coordinator of the Kalipunan ng mga Katutubo ng Pilipinas (KAMP) stressed that mining operations resulted to the dislocation of thousands of indigenous people and loss of their livelihood. “Ang katutubo ay mahigpit na kaisa ng kalikasan sapagkat sa kalikasan nabubuhay ang mga katutubo.” (The indigenous peoples are in deep solidarity with nature because we rely on the environment for our livelihood.)
Jaime cited various IP communities all over the country who struggle against mining operations and applications.
Arman Albarillo, secretary general of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan)-Southern Tagalog said that mining projects drive away thousands of local residents. He identified the provinces of Batangas, Quezon, Marinduque and Mindoro as targets for mining activities in Southern Tagalog. “Maraming napapalikas dahil sa pangangamkam ng lupa at militarisasyon.” (Many have been displaced due to land grabbing and militarization,” Albarillo said.
Harassment vs environmentalists
In an earlier statement, KPNE’s Bautista condemned the intensifying harassment against environmentalists under the Arroyo government. The group revealed that 23 environmentalists have been killed since 2001; 18 of whom were involved in the campaigns against mining.
KPNE also slammed the filing of charges against environmentalists by mining transnational corporations (TNCs).
CEC’s Quimpo and Danilo Ramos, secretary general of Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) were sued for libel by Lafayette Philippines Inc. Quimpo and Ramos helped expose the ill effects of the Rapu-Rapu Polymetallic Project in Bicol.
Mining corporations Oceana Philippines Inc and RoyalCo. Ltd of Australia filed a permanent injunction before the local court against 24 leaders of IP communities in Kasibu, Nueva Vizcaya. The local residents set up a barricade to prevent the entry of mining TNCs in their area. Kasibu Mayor Romeo Tayaban was charged with contempt for supporting the barricade of IP leaders.
Charges of grave coercion and illegal assembly were also filed against 85 residents in Sibuyan island for holding a picket near the mining site of the Sibuyan Properties Development Corporation (SNPDC).
Giovanni Tapang, chairperson of Agham – Scientists for the People, said that imperialist plunder of natural resources and national patrimony hastens the destruction of the environment.
For Renato Reyes, Jr., Bayan secretary general, imperialism is the main culprit in the wanton destruction of the environment. “Para sa mga imperyalistang bansa, nasa unahan ang tubo; segundarya lang ang kalikasan at ang tao.” (For imperialist countries, profit comes first; the environment and the people come second.”
“Hanggang nananatili ang imperyalismo, hindi malulutas ang problema sa kalikasan. Pagbabago ng lipunan ang lulutas rito,” (For as long as imperialism remains, the environmental problems will persist. It is only through societal change that we will resolve these problems) added Reyes. (Bulatlat.com)