“Mindanao is faced with the crisis of the state of impunity and the calamity caused by Typhoon Pablo, which were both driven by plunder and the systematic violation of human rights for corporate and elitists’ profit and interests.”
By JANESS ANN J. ELLAO
MANILA – As the death toll brought about by Typhoon Pablo (Typhoon Bopha) continues to increase, progressive groups based in Mindanao reminded the public of how corporate greed contributed, if not wholly caused, such destruction of homes, livelihoods and loss of lives.
“Mindanao is faced with the crisis of the state of impunity and the calamity caused by Typhoon Pablo, which were both driven by plunder and the systematic violation of human rights for corporate and elitists’ profit and interests,” Sheena Duazo, Bayan – Southern Mindanao Region secretary general, said.
“Now more than ever, Mindanawons and the Filipino people should fight for policies and laws that protect our democracy and sovereignty as a nation,” Duazo added.
Philippine Star reported that a total of 714 lives have been claimed by Typhoon Pablo. Nearly 900 people remain missing. Of these fatalities, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council reported that only about 257 have been identified. Some 25,812 families, on the other hand, are staying in evacuation centers.
According to the same report, the Department of Agriculture estimated that about 26,160 hectares of crops were damaged, which costs about P3,618,868,247.07 ($88.26 million) in agriculture and P3,479,131,300($84.85 million) in infrastructure.
Duazo attributed the destruction brought about by Typhoon Pablo in Compostela Valley, Davao Oriental and the Caraga region “to years of plunder and historical ills of a government that is bent on serving the profit and interests of a few local elites and transnational corporations.”
“Given the state of calamity which hit mineral-rich provinces in the region, it will be easier for the Aquino government to go for the full-scale implementation of its large-scale and foreign mining revitalization program. With timber, and banana plantations having been completely washed out by Typhoon Pablo, mining TNCs can easily takeover under the pretext of ‘economic recovery.’ We should be vigilant since pro-foreign policies like the Mining Act of 1995, and EO 79 are in place,” said Duazo.
“Under the state of calamity now are areas considered as the timber capital of the country. Since the logging boom in the time of the Marcos dictatorship, Mindanao has been the source of exported timber. Since the mining boom started in Compostela Valley up to the present, Mindanao has been the source of the country’s gold and minerals for export. This massive extraction which served the coffers of big logging and mining capitalists, and the needs of imperialist countries, is the reason behind the devastation, poverty and landlessness that we Mindanawons are suffering now,” said Duazo.
Human rights day
During the commemoration of the International Human Rights day, Bayan, along with human rights group Karapatan, led workers, urban poor, peasants and youth to call on President Benigno S. Aquino III to look into the situation in Mindanao.
They condemned the harassment and killings of environmental advocates not just in Mindanao but also in the entire country. To date, human rights group Karapatan documented 129 victims of extrajudicial killings, where 69 are farmers and 25 were indigenous peoples.
Out of this, 35 victims of extrajudicial killings are from Mindanao, whose latest victim farmer Rolando Quijano, also an active member of the Alliance of Farmers Union in Zamboanga del Sur, was gunned down by suspected members of 53rd Infantry Batallion, according to data gathered by the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas.
Duazo said counterinsurgency plan Oplan Bayanihan “is easily exposed through the merciless killing of the Capion family,” a known anti-mining activist and still the unresolved murder of Fr. Fausto “Pops” Tentorio.
She also cited continuing threats against staunch supporters of communities against mining such as Sr. Stella Matutina OSB and Fr. Peter Geremia PIME.
In Manila, internal refugees from Mindanao attended the protest action in Mendiola. They were delegates to the week-long Manilakbayan. They held several protest actions in front of various offices of mining companies and concerned government agencies.
In their statement signed by Sr. Matutina and Kalumaran secretary general Dulphing Ogan, they said these protests should be enough to let Aquino and multinational corporations know how “their collaborative schemes have trampled upon our rights and pushed us indigenous peoples to the limits of marginalization.”
Manilakbayan, in its statement, said more cases of their plight are yet to be reported. “But we know for sure all of these would be treated as mere documents by the state.”
“We, however, let the reality speak, as in the case of thousands of people killed in the aftermath of Sendong and Pablo tragedies that struck Mindanao. The scenes of piled dead and bloating bodies are already an indisputable proof of the Aquino administration’s culpability for allowing the incursion of large-scale mining and other agribusiness ventures whose devastation of the environment has resulted to flash floods and landslides,” Manilakbayan said.
They said Aquino is as devastating as Pablo itself, adding that the “typhoon should have been named Noynoy who, like Pablo, has left an ugly mark in the memory of the people, and like any devastating typhoon, is unwanted by them.”