- Kim’s Dream
- Orlando R. Ravanera
Iponan river has been a butt of jokes for quite some time: if Bohol has chocolate hills, Cagayan de Oro has chocolate river. But that is not true anymore.
From being so muddy and filled with silts that were coming from denuded logged areas perpetuated by illegal loggers and from illegal operations of miners doing hydraulics and the heavy use of backhoes and barges several of which were being shamelessly operated by Koreans and Chinese national whose only papers were those of being tourists, Iponan river has miraculously become clean and green.
The “miracle” of that ecosystem’s regaining back to its ecological integrity was not given in a “silver platter”, so to speak. It became possible with the issuance of a Writ of Temporary Environment Protection Order from the Court of Appeals, Cagayan de Oro City, the former Special Twenty Second Division. The Issuance of Writ came about because of the relentless efforts of BANGON KAGAY_AN, represented by Mr. Richard Nixon Baban and as Citizen Suit represented by Ralph Abragan, Edwin Dael, Tito Noel Mora and Richie Neri Conception as petitioners.
The Order from the Court of Appeals is clear and categorical, “that it is aim and goals of all the parties concerned that the Iponan river and its watershed be protected from any illegal activities that will destroy its natural beauty and resources.
In response to that Order, the DENR, the MGB, the EMB, DILG,4th ID, PNP, NBI, BID, LGUs of Cagayan de Oro, Iligan City and Misamis Oriental and SULOG, One Sendong is Enough, came up with a Memorandum of Agreement which they all signed on February 28, 2013. The Agreement focused on three main areas: first, to stop all forms of illegal activities and regain back the rule of law; second, information campaign and advocacy; and third, to rehabilitate and restore ecological integrity through environmental protection and conservation.
Thus, since then, all of these parameters of engagement have been put to mention by the MOA Signatories who are meeting regularly presided by Sulog Chairman.
Stopping illegal logging and mining is not an easy task. The gravity of illegal activities can be likened to an iceberg- 1/10 seen, 9/10 unseen. While so many backhoes and barges costing by the tens of millions are seen that are heavily damaging the ecosystems, the owners of these are not known. Why were there Chinese and Korean nationals doing illegal mining? Why did they have ECCs and permits? Who issued these? Why did they carry high-powered guns? Were these licensed? How deep is the participation of some influential people?
Some of these information were divulged to us by Datu Fausto Orasan also called Datu Sandigan, a tribal Datu who is a member of SULOG. He was a fearless and highly committed tribal leader whose passion was to stop illegal mining. To those who cannot moderate their greed, he was a threat, so he must be killed. Thus, on that fatal day of September 13, 2104, he was shot at the back while riding a motorcycle in the uplands of Cagayan de Oro while monitoring illegal mining activities.
Datu Sandigan was a civilian volunteer, an intrepid fighter of “Magbabaya” to protect His vanishing creation. He got finally killed after eight attempts to his life. After the seventh attempt, which left him unscathed, I told him jokingly to share with me his “anting-anting.” During his vigil, his tribal colleagues jokingly said that he got killed this time because he gave his “anting-anting” to me.
The brutal death of this courageous environmental comrade has not cowed us at all. We too are willing to die for Mother Earth, with our firm belief that protection God’s creation is the highest form of worship now. In memory of this gallant environmental warrior, the MOA signatories came up with a decisive move to put up the Datu Sandigan Checkpoint and established the Kinaiyahan task force, leaving no “stone unturned” to pursue the rule of law to the hilt. The Task force is headed by the CLENRO himself, Mr. Edwin Dael, the MGB headed by my high school classmate, Dir. Rex Monsanto ably assisted by Engr. Romy Tidadul and the gallant men from the AFP and PNP.
The cessation of all illegal activities has given way to the rehabilitation process and the grand plan to provide livelihood to those who were dependent on mining and logging. This is the next step on the mission to sustain the cleaning and greening of Iponan river.
We now call on all sectors to join us in this crusade, as all are stakeholders. Your participation is the best guarantee of sustainability and freed from ecological disasters. When we work together to regain back ecological integrity in the uplands of Cagayan de Oro, more fish will thrive in Macajalar Bay as its siltation will be stopped, the uplands will become more productive and Cagayan de Oro will not be vulnerable to another Sendong.
Yes, Iponan River has regained back its lost ecological integrity due to the stoppage of illegal logging and illegal mining operations. Datu Sandigan has sacrificed his life for people and planet – all for the greater glory of MAGBABAYA (the Creator,Almigthy God). But until now, his killers are still scot free. Let justice be done ‘till the heavens fall!