I would like to extend my sympathies to the families, friends, and colleagues of the victims of the unfortunate landslides in Diwalwal and Masara in our dear province of Davao de Oro.

I grew up in a town at a time when mining was booming. My late Tatay also ventured into mining. As a child, I used to swim in our first tailing pond before the first stocks were placed. I fully understand those who work in the industry, especially the small-scale miners.

But now, there are plenty of justifications bordering on excuses that deny the reality that mining is an extractive and destructive industry. While I am not totally against mining, as it is an important industry, it is more important to note that with the current system of governance and mining laws, “responsible mining” is just a myth.

With the tragic incident of recent landslides, has someone taken responsibility? It is ridiculous that the so-called authorities put blame on the recent torrential rains brought by the shear line and low-pressure area (LPA) in the atmosphere, rather than pointing out human interventions that led to such tragedy.

However, I will not focus on that, as we await and hope an impartial investigation will look into the tragic incident in Masara, most especially after the area was declared a no-habitation site after an earlier landslide happened in 2008. We also continuously pray for those who remain missing and for the rescuers who are responding despite the adverse weather and geologic conditions.

Allow me to share our experience on what used to be our small mining site. Tatay left a small parcel of land in a mining community. The slope of the land is quite steep as the mineral veins are right in that location. The content of those veins is actually fair based on assay, especially now where the highway is near, certainly production cost is lower. We also have abundant lauan trees among others, thus timber is definitely not a problem as well.

However, we learned early on that mining can destroy the area, which is why we pursued farming instead. We follow the Diversified Integrated Farming System (DIFS), and since it is a sloping area, the most suitable strategy is the Sloping Agricultural Land Technology (SALT), which by the way originated at the Mindanao Rural Life Baptist in Barangay Kinuskusan, Bansalan Davao del Sur.

We carefully established contour lines and hedgerows of Madre Cacao (Gliricidia sepium) and Madre de Agua (Trichanthera gigantea) for the main purpose of preventing soil erosion as well as preparation for animal feed as we integrate livestock later on. We also planted fruit trees, coffee trees, and we protected and replanted the native trees. Instead of placing a tailing pond, we established a fishpond for additional protein source, this will also serve as a water catchment especially when drought season comes.

In April last year, our province was struck by a series of strong earthquakes, which resulted in several landslides, especially in the mining areas nearby. Fortunately, there were no landslides on our farm, the hedgerows luckily prevented those landslides from taking more damage to our farm.

Again, I fully understand the situation of the mining industry, especially that of the small-scale miners who are also landless peasants who ventured in mining. Thus, I firmly believe that there is a need to advance genuine agrarian reform and increase support for the agriculture sector.

With the current climate crisis, there is a need to radically shift our policies and programs. There is no “business as usual” with our unusual climate. There is no “business as usual” with the destructive industries.

Before we pray to heal our land, we must first understand what went wrong with our land. As we pray for the victims, we must call for accountability and Climate Justice Now!

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