17 January 2012
A month after Sendong — Environment groups warn of “environmental apocalypse” if big mining, plantations not stopped
“The tragedy of Sendong not only demonstrates government failure in climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction measures, it is most especially the catastrophic effect of decades of export-oriented, extractive, and ecologically irresponsible laws governing use of our lands and natural resources,” said PANALIPDAN Mindanao spokesperson Sr. Stella Matutina of the Benedictine Sisters.
The group — a network of advocates for the environment and national patrimony — pointed out an obvious irony that while the national government has blamed illegal logging activities for forest denudation in Northern Mindanao, it continues to permit large-scale logging operations by approving six Integrated Forest Management Agreements that cover 53,578 hectares of forest areas in the region. Government data show that it has approved 298 Community-Based Forest Management Agreements covering 213,770 hectares with several of these CBFMAs given the go-signal to conduct logging through Resource Use Permits. “Worse, these legal logging operations have been exempted by the Aquino administration from Executive Order 23 or the total log ban,” Matutina said.
“The series of disasters we are witnessing today emphasizes that Mindanao’s environment has reached its threshold, a saturation point that will only bring about more destruction in communities where there are big mining, logging, mega dams, and large tracts of agribusiness plantations,” added Matutina.
“The large-scale environmental destruction is due to the large-scale extractive industries being pushed by existing government policies and programs that promote foreign investments. We are seeing an environmental apocalypse not caused by nature’s wrath but by capitalist greed and government corruption.”
PANALIPDAN Mindanao believes that the tragedies of Sendong, the Pantukan landslides, and the recent Agusan, Bukidnon and Surigao floods are clear indications that the allocation of 1/3 of Mindanao’s total land area to large-scale foreign mining, logging, and other economic enterprises are taking its toll on human lives and ecological balance.
Under the current administration, more than 730 mining agreements and permits have been awarded to multinational and transnational corporations.
The group urges the Aquino government to learn from the lessons of Sendong, Pantukan and of previous major disasters exacerbated by climate crisis. “It should now be all too clear for our policy makers that the unabated plunder of our national patrimony connects to the overall global warming and climate change problem. The confluence of national and global environmental plunder has led us to this point of destruction and deaths,” Matutina pointed out.
“We press for reversal of national laws and policies that follow a development framework based on extraction, exploitation and export; imperialist plunder of the environment, aided by monopoly of landholdings and resources, and government corruption — the three social ills that we must eliminate in order to reverse the path of destruction that we now see in our midst,” Matutina said.
Panalipdan vowed to continue advocating for alternative laws that safeguard people’s welfare and environment such as House Bill 4315 or the People’s Mining Bill, while it lauds the people’s victory in opposing destructive mining operations of Xstrata-SMI’s copper-gold project in Tampakan, South Cotabato as shown by the recent move of DENR to deny issuance of environmental clearance for the largely Swiss-owned mining company.
Sr. Stella Matutina
OSB, Secretary General