• Kim’s Dream
  • Orlando R. Ravanera

Amidst the onslaught of COVID-19 causing so much devastation to health, life and the economy in the entire world, what has happened now to the cooperatives’ dream, advocacy and continuing collective efforts for a sustainable, just and democratic future? How do we now liberate the poor and the oppressed from poverty, gross inequities and social injustices?

In searching for answers, what readily comes to my mind were the words of India’s hero of liberation,  Mahatma Gandhi, against British imperial power, to quote: “The world should be such that no one under it should suffer from want of food and clothing. In other words, everybody should be able to get sufficient work to enable him to make the two ends meet. And this ideal can be universally realized only if the means of production of the elementary necessaries of life remain in the control of the masses.  These should be freely available to all as God’s air and water are or ought to be; they should not be made a vehicle of control for the exploitation of others.  Their monopolization by any country, nation or groups of persons would be unjust. The neglect of this simple principle is the cause of the destitution that we witness today not only in this unhappy land (India) but in other parts of the world, too.”

Wonderfully and accurately said a century or ago, yet, such categorical statement that the resources “should not be made under a vehicle of control for the exploitation of others,” is even more imperative now than before. Indeed, Who controls? Who decides? Who profits? From the bounty of our ecological resources?  The statement of President Duterte hits the crux of the problem (as stated by his former Spokesperson): “If it is a means to life, i.e., water, no one should be in control for profit motive!”

Just like Gandhi, we too have our heroes who had worked, sacrificed and even died to liberate our country from the clutches of imperial Spain, Japan and the USA. Unlike our local heroes, Gandhi had done more.  It was not just freeing India from Imperial British Rule or kicking them physically out from India, Gandhi’s concern was more than that, the liberation from Imperial power, even after the imperial power had been ousted!

Look at our country. Yes, we may not be any more directly under an imperial power’s rule, but before leaving they made sure that the systems are there to continuously exploit our resources.

You may ask, what happened to the 17 million hectares, the richest on earth with regards to megadiversity, that we had have a century or so ago? Well, may I share this information. Sometime in the 1900, a big debate occurred in the US Senate on whether to continue the US occupation of the Philippines? It was then the contention that the US must leave the Philippines as it was so difficult to occupy a country that is in the other side of the globe. It would take a US ship to bring soldiers about three months; that the US be better off to colonize nearby countries like Cuba or Mexico.  But a US Senator by the name of Alfred Beviridge stood up and said, “The US must not leave the Philippines as its forest with trees the finest in the world, can supply the timber needs of the world especially  of the US for century to come.”

Not only have we allowed them to exploit our resources, but even the use of our choicest of lands. Look at Mindanao with more than 200 thousands of plantations of high value crops that are providing advance countries with high value products to satisfy their consumerist lifestyle while we in the Philippines cannot even satisfy basic staples like rice and milk, the reason why 85% of our children are malnourished, according to the data of the Food and Nutrition Institute.

But our wealth is not just above the ground. Beneath are some 72 kinds of minerals, the richest  on earth, but gone to foreign miners everyone.  I can personally attest to that. Being the Presiding Officer of Task Force Kinaiyanan by virtue of the Writ of Kalikasan, I headed a team to stop mining in the uplands of Cagayan de Oro. We discovered inside the campsite of the miners, AK-47, Armalites and Grenades.  And who were the miners that we arrested? Chinese!  Miners were even using hydraulics that had toppled down our mountains and transformed our waterways into “chocolate rivers!” and heavily silted our bays.

As you know, of the 13 major bays in the Philippines, 10 already are biologically dead. Of the 25 major rivers, 15 are already dried-up or polluted.!

What has happened to the Philippine Archipelago which  had been described before by Dr. Kent Carpenter, the President then of UN-FAO, as the “Center of the center of marine life on earth!” Well, being a neo-colony, our seas were just treated as a “waste pit” of radiated wastes by advanced countries. Worse, during the martial law years, the Philippines entered into an agreement with Japan, “the RP-Japan Treaty of Amity, Commerce and Navigation,” that allowed the Japanese Computerized Fishing Vessels to rake our seas of fish and other marine resources at the expense of our fishing communities.

In my meetings with internationally renowned environmentalists, heated arguments would come about as  they would described the Philippines as a “nation of coward people,” for allowing the total ecological devastation of our country.  My counter argument which was reinforced by a world renowned environment activist and physicist Dr, Vandana Shiva, PhD. I would emphasize the truism that the Philippines is the land of the brave and the free. Why did we lose our ecological wealth? Well, as my good friend Dr. Shiva would say, “the emergence of corporations in India as in the whole world, created new instruments of wealth extraction for the investors and new degree of impoverishment and dispossession for producers, i.e., the Indigenous People.” Indeed, only one percent, the global corporations, is in control of the world’s economy and sacrificing GAIA (Mother Earth) and the people to the altar of greed and profit that is now putting the earth to its 6th extinction in connivance with the climate change deniers in cohort with the media! All to satisfy the profit motive of fossil fuel and coal corporations as these global corporations are earning some  nine trillion dollars a year or ten million dollars every minute.

Indeed, there is now so much veneration to the profit motive in a world deeply buried in consumerism and materialism amidst the denigration of spirituality. Cooperatives be that countervailing force for a sustainable, just and democratic future — all for God’s greater glory!  MABUHAY ANG KOOPERATIBA!