November 19, 2019

ALL of us must hold fast to dreams for when dreams die, life is just a broken winged-bird that cannot fly. It is great to have dreams for oneself. It is even greater and noble to have dreams for others especially for those whom we have all pledged to serve – our people.

We who believe in the essence of cooperativism that now counts on some eleven (11) million members from some 18,700 cooperatives thoughout the country who are now front-lining peace and development especially in this beautiful but broken island of Mindanao must have dreams for our oppressed but struggling people as not to become automatons in this highly materialistic and consumerist society. Let us therefore dream.

To dream that one day soon our struggling and oppressed people will scale the heights of progress, free from want and fear and living a decent and fully human life.

To dream that one day our farmers will own the land they till and control the mode of production and marketing; to enjoy the fruits of their labor for it is through the sweat of their brow that the land is made productive; to dream that our fisherfolk will have greater access to our waters and not the computerized foreign trawlers, from Japan or China, which crane the sea beds and destroying our corals.

To dream that our vast plains and choicest of lands will yield fruits to feed the hungry in our own country and not to satisfy the consumerist lifestyle of the people in advanced countries; that our natural resources will not anymore be exploited, and if ever, to benefit the bulk of the people and not just a few elite, be loggers or miners, and out of their heavy rakings, they buy votes to hold on to power to continue their rakings.

After dreaming, let us now reflect to ask some soul-searching questions. The Philippines as described by the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization (UN-FAO) is the richest on earth ecologically as it was then oozing with ecological resources. In one forest ecosystem alone in the Philippines like the 5,000-hectare Mount Makiling or Mount Kitanglad, the number of flora and fauna is far greater in number compared to those found in one billion-hectare North America.

The ecological wealth is not just found above the ground; beneath are some 72 kinds of mineral (i.e., gold, silver, bronze, copper, etc.). The natural wealth does not end at the shorelines as the Philippine Archipelago has been described by Dr. Kent Carpenter, President of UN-FAO, as “the Center of the Center of marine life on earth.”

Indeed, so rich and yet so poor! Why? Let us now ask three important questions. Of the country’s resources, WHO CONTROLS? WHO PROFITS? WHO BENEFITS?

Where is now the 17 million hectares of dipterocarp forest? Gone to loggers everyone as only 1 million hectares remain. These loggers, based on the book of Marites Vitug in her book, Power from the Forest, the loggers had made so much rakings as one shipment of logs alone would earn a logger some 360 million pesos.

Out of these heavy rakings, they use that to buy votes as many have become congressmen, governors and mayors. Loggers were even bragging then that no one can stop them, saying that “about 80% in that office that was supposed to enforce the laws were under their payroll.” That also included many law enforcers and even some judicial personalities.

Somehow we in the environmental movement then were puzzled because all of the logging activities then could be classified as illegal as these logging operations were done in prohibited areas, i.e., in forest land that is situated 1,000 meters above sea level or in sloppy areas with about 50% gradient. These critical areas should have not been logged because our ecological security will be gone, that’s why the Philippines is now the 3rd hardest hit country in the world of ecological turbulence due to climate change where in one night of flooding alone, thousands were left dead. Where are the loggers? Very safe in their mansions.

Where is the so-called Rule of Law?

Of the 13 major bays, 10 are already biologically dead to the detriment of our coastal communities who are now the poorest of the poor. Industries surrounding the bays have treated the bays as their waste pits. Massive siltation coming from denuded logged areas are giving the bays the final death blows.

Of the 25 major rivers in the country, 15 are already dead, dried-up or polluted as the integrity of our watersheds is already gone or polluted by the heavy usage of toxic chemicals by big corporate plantations. The 200 thousand hectares of plantations in Mindanao are using chemical fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides that as if we are dumping some 2,000 dump-trucks of poison to the watersheds every day. Of the 14 chemicals used by these plantations, 8 are already banned in other countries that’s why many of them had been closed in other countries, so they came to our country as we Filipinos are passive and don’t care.

Indeed, GAIA, Mother Earth is very sick and dying as She has no more lungs (forest), no more veins (rivers), so toxic a stomach (bays) and without hair (ozone layer)! She is now shaking (earthquakes). Please as you reflect, feel Her pains and stand-up for Her and for Her sons and daughters, especially the ecological people – the Indigenous People, farmers and fisherfolk. Then pray because we are now in the 19th year of the 21st century but we are not certain anymore if we can reach the 22nd century which is only 81 years from now as the Earth is now in crisis due to climate and violent extremism.

As you reflect, feel the oneness of life. Express your love and oneness with GAIA and all life-forms as we are all one with the unseen Being and all life forms which are the Creator’s manifestations, not the statues and pictures inside the Church as those are only Leonardo Da Vinci’s imagination. Stand and advance the essence of cooperativism whose DNA is that of value-based, principle-driven, members-owned and sustainable. That’s who we are dear colleagues! Mabuhay ang KOOPERATIBA!