Plight of Typhoon Pablo Survivors: Anti-Environment And Anti-Peoples’ Policies

We, from the national democratic organizations of Filipino migrant workers, women, youth and students and indigenous people in Toronto, stand in solidarity with the survivors of Typhoon Pablo in Mindanao. We call our allies and friends to continue our collective effort to raise funds and donations to assist them.

Typhoon Pablo (international name: Bopha) hit the southern island of the Philippines on the evening of December 3, 2012.  With winds of 260 km/h affecting over five million people, the super typhoon has been considered the most destructive tropical storm of the year.


As of December 11, at least 700 persons are reported dead, almost 2,000 injured, and 900 missing. The state agency for disaster risk management stated a total of 486,554 families, or 5.4 million persons, were affected by Pablo. But many were also able to get away from danger seeking shelter in makeshift evacuation centres for safety. The affected communities in the south region of the Philippines were especially quick to evacuate and mobilize in light of last year`s calamity (previously thought improbable, Typhoon Ondoy hit the southern Philippines leaving behind $1.06 billion in damages and close to 750 dead).

But the situation remain grim for many communities isolated by the landslides and flash flooding incited by the tropical storm. Aerial surveys show vast areas of flattened houses and buildings, destroyed infrastructures and agricultural lands totaling to over PHP4 billion in damages. However, Typhoon Pablo still left the country, with the provinces of Compostela Valley and Davao Oriental the most damaged, in a declared state of calamity.

The Philippines is hit by an annual average share of 20 typhoons . But every year the effects of these natural disasters only seem to get worse. Even in the issue of climate change, there is no dispute that it is happening. Yet the government is doing insufficient preparations to prevent these before they strike. Many of these are the direct result of the systemic and biopolitical conditions in the country. The KALIKASAN-People’s Network for the Environment and the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines-Northern Mindanao Region (RMP-NMR) both released separate statements blasting the current regime for allowing the desecration and liberalization of our sovereign land and resources.  This is a message worth repeating in light of the destruction of the tropical superstorm Pablo.

President Benigno Aquino III’s government has been more than willing to further degrade Philippine land and people.  For a pittance, Aquino has authorized exemption laws allowing big multinational mining companies, many of which are Canadian-owned, to operate without any accountability to the people and the environment.  For their benefit, Philippine land laws have been permanently altered in our constitution to allow mineral rich areas to be explored and to be exclusively reserved for extractive operations. These areas were and still are technically, ancestral domains of the indigenous communities in Mindanao. According to the country’s cultural commission, the Lumad—a Bisayan term for indigenous people which has been adopted by 15 of the 18 indigenous groups in Mindanao—comprise 2.1 million out of 6.5 million indigenous people nationally.  It is the Lumad like the B’laan, Higaonon, Manobo, T’boli and many others who are profoundly affected by these large scale mining operations.

But displacement is only one other major problem they must face. State-sanctioned assassinations have encouraged the total annihilation of these communities.  Vilification of movements was made easy through liberal policies. In 2011, the Aquino administration pursued the path for a new mining policy which seeks to employ paramilitary and even the Philippine Army to protect the investments of foreign mining firms. The lives of village tribal leaders and other members as well as many other environmental defenders who have openly voiced their opposition have been the state’s obvious targets. Mindanao-based green group Panalipdan has reported 19 deaths due to the rising struggle against mining plunder.  The RMP-NMR have also been publishing numerous stories illustrating similar cases.  One is Sharon Liguyon, whose village tribal leader husband, Jimmy, was shot dead in their home by the paramilitary because he did not want to give his consent to the company that wanted to mine in their area. With a growing and more daring opposition from the Lumad and from the general southern population, we recognize the need for bigger collective mobilizations. If not, stories like the Liguyons’ will only be normalized.

Meanwhile, advocacies like Manilakbayan have been alerting the public of the broadening alliances of internal refugees. Although the Indigenous People’s Rights Act (IPRA) of 1997 seeks to “recognize, protect and promote the rights of indigenous cultural communities…” environment defenders and indigenous leaders have only been answered with bullets and bulldozers. Thus, many local people choose organised armed resistance against the ruling landlords and big foreign mining companies.

The government lambasting on small scale miners condemning their work as amplifying the chaotic destruction of Typhoon Pablo is totally false and is an act of betrayal geared towards the poor Filipinos. “Kadtong niuli ko sa Pilipinas duha ka bulan na ang nilabay, giduaw nako ang sitio sa New Bataan sa probinsya sa Compostela Valley ug nakit-an nako ang sitwasyon sa minahan didto. Nadugmok pag maayo ang akong kasing-kasing sa akong nahibal-an. Didto kay nailhan nako ang komunidad sa mga gagmayng minero, ug sila nagbahin sa ako ug ilang sentimyento ug unsa sila maapektuhan kung sudlun ug langyaw na dagkong minahan ang ilang yuta na posibleng madaut ang ilang yuta, panginabuhi, ug ang ilang mga kinabuhi. Mao ba ning Pilipinas na ikabilin nato sa mga musunod na henerasyon? Among ginapangayo ang hustisya ug paspas na pagtubag ni Pangulo Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III atol sa pagtabang sa atong mga kababayan para sila makahanlingkawas niining kalisod sa sitwasyon!!!”  (When I went to back to the Philippines almost two months ago, I visited New Bataan in Compostela Valley Province and saw the mining situation. I was devastated. I met small scale miners, and they shared how their community will be affected by the possible invasion of huge foreign mining, which will potentially hurt their land, livelihood, and their lives. Is this the Philippines that we want for our future generation? We demand justice and quick response from President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III to help our kababayans to recover from this disaster!!!) ,said Anakbayan Toronto Chairperson Rhea A. Gamana, who is also a Mindanao native.

The Philippine delegate’s urgent appeal to halt global warming in the recent climate change conference is simply reactionary. The impact of recurring typhoons is natural, but the abilities of the Filipinos who have survived the typhoon are hampered down by conditions of unnatural nature. If the government is pro-environment and pro-people, it will recognise that the these calamities are primarily due to the sinking conditions of the status quo. The Alternative Minerals Management Bill is yet to be enacted. Typhoon Pablo confirmed that imperialism, feudalism and bureaucrat-capitalism are still inherent in the current system.

As Filipinos overseas, we want to register our concern regarding the continuing environmental degradation and seeming government neglect of its basic obligation to protect its people. A genuine change in political agenda must be pursued progressively by the masses to overcome capitalism and environmental catastrophe.

Defend our national patrimony versus big foreign mining firms plunder!
Stop the killings of indigenous leaders and environmental defenders!
Scrap the mining EO 79! Support the People’s Mining Bill!

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