Remnants left by tropical storm Basyang in the Municipality of Carrascal, Surigao del Sur. Photo from Ian Cordita Ganas.
A Call for Investigation on the Flooding in Cantilan and Carrascal
The recent tropical storm, Basyang, that hit Surigao del Sur last February 13, 2018 drew urgent concern from Bishop Nereo Odchimar of the Diocese of Tandag. In a recently released pastoral letter, the Bishop highlighted the “untold suffering among the people, especially in the areas of Cantilan and Carrascal where a flashflood swept few houses, destroyed several hundred of hectares of riceland and caused death, initial count of 5 people including children and injured many others.”
Cantilan and Carrascal in Surigao are home to mining companies which have been the subject of many complaints by indigenous communities and civil society advocates due to the destruction of environment and indigenous culture in these areas. Three (3) of these mining companies were suspended by then Secretary Gina Lopez but were back in operations right after the rejection of Ms. Lopez by the Commission on Appointments (CA).
According to the letter, many residents were baffled at how the flood rose so fast and why in several areas logs and trees were swept downstream, destroying houses and structures in its path. “Could the reason be due to massive mining operations that denuded the natural forested mountain and watersheds of Cantilan and Carrascal?” Bishop Odchimar asked.
The Philippine Misereor Partnership, Inc. (PMPI), a social and development network of civil society organizations, peoples’ organizations, non-government organizations, and faith-based organizations joins the call of our partner communities and the Bishop of the Diocese of Tandag for an investigation of illegal logging activities in the area and alleged claims that siltation ponds in some mining sites collapsed and contributed to the flooding in the CARCANMADCARLAN area especially Carrascal and Cantilan.
“Government can’t be complacent, deaf or blind in the midst of disasters happening in the country. Mining activities make communities more vulnerable to disasters. It is high time and urgent that the impact of mining activities in communities becomes a primordial concern of the DENR and the President of the Philippines. The mining audit and the subsequent cancellations, suspension orders, and show cause orders by then Secretary Lopez was a good start. Stiffer measures and accountability are needed now including upholding the suspension orders” Yoly Esguerra, National Coordinator of PMPI said.
She further added that, “We can’t help but think that if the cancellation and suspension orders were enforced to the letter, the impact of Typhoon Basyang wouldn’t be this massive.”
We join the Bishop in his call for a formation of a multi-stake holder, multidisciplinary investigation team to investigate not just on the logging but on the mining activities in these towns as well which may have contributed to the devastation. We call on the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to conduct a thorough investigation and exact accountability from the culprits whose activities caused the denudation of forests and watersheds of these municipalities.
On January 25, President Rodrigo Duterte finally named 19 out of the 25 members of the Charter Change Consultative Committee on amending the 1987 constitution, after several months of the committee’s establishment.
We, the Philippine Misereor Partnership, Inc. (PMPI), a network of NGOs, religious/church-based organizations, and people’s organization, welcomes this new development. Finally, and soon we will stop groping in the dark; there will be concrete and real proposals for charter change that we can discuss and reflect on. This is also positive as it gives us a glimpse of the character of the group that was given the huge responsibility to re-write our current constitution, fashioned to strengthen democracy and social justice, and prevent a dictatorship to ever happen again.
The changing of the new constitution is touted and being framed by the current government as a way to usher the development that the 1987 constitution allegedly failed to effect.
While we believe that there are sections in the current constitution that needed updating, we do not agree in fast-tracking the process of changing the constitution within 6 months as per instruction from the President. We are deeply concerned of its effects as failures and instability in governance from the past continue to plague our nation.
The constitution is the heart of any government and of any institution for that matter. It is the fundamental law that governs and prescribes the life of a people. Thus, there should be a recognition that changing the constitution would require that every citizens’ concerns, every epoch’s milestone, and every historical experiences are considered and studied thoroughly.
Every Filipino needs to know the following:
Discernment and conversation should be encouraged for every Filipino to understand the context of the proposed processes, thereby owning it.
We call on the government not to take the charter change process in haste. We urge the government to involve various stakeholders from different sectors of society in crafting the needed change in the constitution and take part in policy making.
The participation of various sectors will ensure that these changes in the constitution meet expectations for equal rights, effective delivery of resources, protection of lands and indigenous territories, provision of social services, stop political dynasty and corruption with respect to the rule of law.
We reject the Constitutional Assembly as a way to change the constitution. We do not trust that the current lower house will represent the genuine voice of the people by the way they have repeatedly conducted themselves in addressing social issues since the assumption to power of President Duterte.
We say NO TO CHARTER CHANGE IN HASTE. We say NO TO CON-ASS.
Guiuan, Eastern Samar — It is truly Christmas! DENR sent out a gift to Manicani people when it rejected with finality the application of Hinatuan Mining Corporation (HMC) to extend its mining permit for its Manicani project for another 25 years. Manicani islanders will be spending their Christmas holidays this year with peace of mind and a flicker of hope that future generations will have the opportunity to enjoy their island's gifts of nature.
The Philippine Misereor Partnership, Inc. (PMPI) rejoices with its partners in Manicani, the Protect Manicani Island Society Inc. (PROMISI), and the Diocese of Borongan in receiving the good news published in www.inquirer.com that announced the positive position of the DENR on the mining issue in Manicani. As a stakeholder on the island's development through an integrated island rehabilitation and development project, PMPI supports the cause of protecting environment and people. PMPI has been dreaming with the people of Manicani for this day to come to the island.
“We hold on to Sec. Cimatu's recognition of our island as a protected area, and we look forward to his promise that it will be rehabilitated and that alternative livelihoods will be provided,” stated Rosalinda Bergado, a Manicani youth resident and member of PROMISI.
“I wasn't around on my father's deathbed because I was in Manila with fellow advocates fighting for this cause, but this news somehow eases the devastation I felt”, she added. Ms. Bergado in her young age, has been publicly speaking against mining in Manicani.
Meanwhile, the Diocese of Borongan who has always been at the forefront supporting the protection of Manicani island welcomes the pronouncement of the DENR officials.
“The people of Manicani has suffered long because of the mining operations on the island. It is good that Sec. Cimatu is finally putting an end to it. This a very important milestone in the struggle against mining not just in Manicani but in the whole of the Samar Island", noted Fr. Juderick Paul Calumpiano, the social action director of the diocese.
While in awe of such victory, PMPI calls on its partners to remain vigilant and continue monitoring the implementation of such pronouncements and ensure that rehabilitation will be implemented accordingly.
“We are very happy with this development, and we are hoping that healing will soon follow among the divided people of Manicani. But at the same time, we won't settle for public pronouncements. We want to see concrete documents and actions from the Secretary that would direct HMC to leave the island”, stated Ms. Yolanda Esguerra, National Coordinator of PMPI.
PMPI continues to call on the DENR to look into the plight of other communities affected by mining. It should weigh on the MGB's statement that the provision on opening new mines in EO 79 should be lifted as well as MICC's recommendation to lift the ban on open pit mining.
"We hope and continue to pray that Sec. Cimatu will heed the President's pronouncements that the ban on open pit mining stays and that he will not waver on his position to reject HMCs application with finality despite strong lobby from mining companies to decide otherwise” Ms. Esguerra further said.
Manicani residents folding their camp and belongings as they end their encampment outside DENR Central Office. Photo by Jerico Catalla/PMPI.
Quezon City - The Philippine Misereor Partnership Inc. (PMPI), welcomes the positive outcome of the dialogue between Secretary Roy Cimatu of DENR and Protect Manicani Island Society Inc. (PROMISI) last December 11, 2017. In assuring the members of PROMISI that the island is already protected by law and by promising support to livelihood and rehabilitation of the island, campers decided to fold the camp and head back home to bring the good news to the islanders for Christmas.
The dialogue, facilitated by the Bishop Crispin Varquez of the Diocese of Borongan took place a month after PROMISI started camping out in front of the DENR gates adding pressure for the dialogue to happen.
Marcial Somooc, President of PROMISI, stressed that, "...while the Secretary has not issued an official document in agreement with our demands, we hold his words during the dialogue that the DENR recognizes Manicani Island as part of the Guiuan Protected Area. This is a Christmas present that we will bring back to our family and communities."
In 1994, two years after the issuance of the contested and now expired MPSA of Hinatuan Mining Corporation (HMC), Guiuan, Eastern Samar was declared a Protected Seascape/Landscape through Presidential Proclamation 469 issued by then President Fidel V. Ramos. The said HMC MPSA was also suspended by DENR in 2002 and was never lifted since.
Rebecca Destajo, stated that, “After 25 years of struggle against HMC's mining operations, this is just the beginning of our victory. Despite the many obstacles and hindrances that came our way, let this day be a happy one to mark our victory against destructive mining. The DENR Secretary's words do not totally guarantee protection of our island but his recognition of it as a protected area is a good start." She thanked all the support groups for the unwavering commitment to their cause.
Mr. Fedelino Atrejenio of United Manicani Residents in Metro Manila urged his fellow Manicanians, “Not to lose hope. That in going home, they bring with them the promise of DENR Sec. Cimatu that he will protect the island since it's already part of a protected area".
With support from various groups, the PROMISI had been calling for the non-renewal of Hinatuan Mining Corporation's (HMC) Mineral Production Sharing Agreement (MPSA); ban on any new mining permit covering Manicani Island; upholding of the NIPAS Law which includes Manicani Island; and the Ban on Open-Pit Mining issued last year by DENR.
On the other hand, the Concerned Citizens of Sta. Cruz (CCOS), also a group whose hometown of Sta. Cruz in Zambales is besieged by six mining companies of which four MPSAs were already suspended by DENR joined SAMAMO/PROMISI's encampment last November 30. The group's leader Dr. Ben Molino said they will continue encampment in front of DENR until the agency upholds the suspension orders and refrain from issuing permits that allow nickel ore transport.
Fr. Juderick Calumpiano, Social Action Director of the Diocese of Borongan and Co-Convenors Committee member of PMPI was invited by PROMISI to officiate a send-off mass prior to folding up the camp. In his homily he said, “Those little victories were made possible because of God's presence. We are mere instruments of God's fight for the environment." He reminded everyone to stay faithful to God despite their difficulties. He ended the mass by stating a quote that he said can be found at the airport in Tacloban, "If you think the environment is less important than the economy, inhale, hold your breath and count your money."
“The people of Manicani, have already staked their lives for many years just to see their community free from mining. Now, they return home bringing with them the hope that no mining company will ever set foot on their island again. Their next challenge is to reclaim their land and rehabilitate it as well as to unite and heal the wounds of division in the island. With these developments, Christmas indeed has become more meaningful especially for the campers” said Yoly Esguerra, National Coordinator of PMPI.
‘tis the Season to Cry with Rage
As many Filipino families started lighting their Christmas trees to celebrate the holiday season, the number of families lighting candles to mourn loved ones who died from senseless killings continue to increase. From alleged drug personalities to human rights defenders.
On December 10, the Filipino people lighted a torch for peace and human rights as various groups marched and held actions in different parts of the nation to express their condemnation of the continuous killings, rights violations and narrowing down of democratic space in the country.
After the transfer of drug operation to the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA), there seems to be a drop in the number of drug-related killings reported in mainstream media and, yet communities continue to experience the attacks of their tormentors. PDEA reports showed only one drug suspect killed in 2,161 drug operations since it took over in October 2017. But the reality in the ground speaks otherwise.
Last November 23, after the government released the Proclamation 360 declaring the termination of the peace negotiations of government with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), reports of clashes between the military and the NPA resulted into the displacement of communities and families.
We are particularly concerned that the government has abandoned its avowed quest for peace in the declared termination of peace talks with the CPP-NPA-NDF. And as it stands now it is running berserk at ensuring that these groups are silenced.
Just last week, Fr. Marcelito “Tito” Paez of the Diocese of San Jose, was killed at gunpoint in Jaen, Nueva Ecija hours after helping the release of a political prisoner in Cabanatuan. Fr. Paez was a committed human rights advocate grounded in the experiences of families and communities and actively involved in the cause of the poor.
Several cases more of human rights violations were documented in the provinces as crackdown on the New People’s Army (NPA) by military forces continues. Just last week, religious leader Lovelito Quiñones was killed in a clash between the government troops and suspected NPA rebels in Oriental Mindoro. A young student activist from the University of the Philippines was among the 14 suspected New People's Army (NPA) rebels killed during an encounter with the military in Nasugbu, Batangas. Josephine Anne Lapira, 22, also an official of the left-leaning Gabriela Women's Party is among those killed. The encounter looks ruthless. All killed. The intent to demobilize and arrest them seem nowhere in the consciousness of the assailants. These rights violations committed against civilians, including the church, student and opposition leaders, journalists, artists, musicians and activists are clear indications of this administration’s determination to silence individuals and groups critical of the current dispensation.
Threats to human rights and progressive groups is increasingly alarming. Every day, the democratic space to discuss political and social issues and to demand accountability for human rights violations are becoming narrower for people. False promises, confusing policy pronouncements, and deceptive news are very much like noises that prevent people to discern and eventually assert their rights.
The Philippine Misereor Partnership, Inc (PMPI), a network of church/religious groups, nongovernment organizations, and people’s organizations, calls on the people to continue to discern and pursue path to peace. We should continue to cry with rage and disgust with the utter disregard of the value of life and the rule of law.
We should demand fair investigations on the series of killings of students, religious, and those victims of drug-related operations. We appeal for the government to uphold the rule of law, listen to the voices of the people who cry for justice, and hope of a better country that recognizes and fulfills every person’s aspiration and dignity.
We need to stand firm and claim our rights.