Monday, August 14, 2006

Strategic Enrichment Plan For Politicians

THE COMMON ARGUMENT of pro-mining officials in defending their stand is the God-given dominion of man over every lesser form of life and the natural wealth that abounds in this planet. They rationalize that since mineral deposits are gifts from God, it would be an insult to God if we will not utilize them for our advantage. They are afraid that fire and brimstone would rain upon the province if the rich mineral deposits will be kept intact beneath the earth, so they are now rushing to exhume the prized minerals.

What these officials deliberately forget in their rhetoric is the fact that not everything that God placed in this planet are meant to be touched: some are better left in their natural state to maintain the natural equilibrium of life. For in reality, this planet is a big test to humanity. Its destiny is left to its human stewards who both possess enough wisdom to keep it healthy and enough lust to ruin it. With human greed as the primary cause of environmental degradation everywhere, delineation of places that need protection and restrictions on human activities in these hotspots became the trend of global conservation efforts.

In Palawan, such wisdom, which safeguards the environment from the ravages of human greed, is embodied in RA 7611, the Strategic Environmental Plan for Palawan. The law’s main strategy is the Environmentally Critical Areas Network (ECAN), which provides “a graded system of protection and development control over the whole of Palawan.” ECAN areas, which comprise terrestrial, marine and tribal lands, were divided into management zones, according to their environmental significance. Areas above 1,000 meters elevation were classified as core zones, and should be free of human disruption except for traditional and non-destructive activities of indigenous communities.

But then, God made these lush mountainous areas sit over huge deposits of minerals that the mining companies are drooling over, a perfect test to the human heart’s desires. Naturally, the mining capitalists, obsessed with huge profits, are clamoring for the opening up of those areas for mining, using the poverty of the place and the “God gave it, let us use it” brand of twisted theology as their justification. The next thing they would do is to win to their side the local officials who have discretion over those restricted areas.

Unfortunately, winning the unprincipled politicians (which many of Palawan’s politicians are) is one of the easiest things to do in this world. It is just like luring loose chickens to the trap: scatter rice around and soon they would come flying from every direction to feast on the delicious grain. Simply announce that huge amounts of cash will be given out to officials who will move for the reclassification of the core zone and presto, a pack of drooling politicians will soon be crowding your doorway, hands itching to lay hold of the bundles of bills.

With the 2007 elections drawing closer, time breeds harm and threats against the communities around the places where God had buried the mineral deposits. Local politicians are getting ready for the electoral race and they would gladly accept monetary contributions for their campaign chest, though it would mean yielding to the wish of the contributors. Alas, mining executives are such generous contributors, and with most of our local officials willing to bargain, it seems that we are about to see our revered mountains crumble to dust.

We therefore call on the provincial leadership to uphold the integrity of the SEP Law by opposing the proposal of Rio Tuba Nickel Mining Corporation to utilize Mt. Bunlanjao in Bataraza, classified as core zone, for its expansion project. Giving in to the wish of the mining company would mean that the SEP for Palawan is nothing but a feeble law, open to the tinkering of the politicians and therefore, in dire need of a new and apt definition. “Strategic Enrichment Plan for Politicians” is just perfect.

Hurting? Then act wisely.

Editorial written by Robert Bagalay and published in the July 24-30, 2006 issue of Bandillo ng Palawan


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