GC to PH gov’t: ‘Respect rights of IPs; no to false environmental solutions!’

GC to PH gov’t: ‘Respect rights of IPs; no to false environmental solutions!’

Environmental coalition Green Convergence held “Landslides: Today’s Recurrent Nightmare,” at its monthly Kamayan Para sa Kalikasan Forum. Resource speakers included Rodne Galicha of Climate Reality Philippines and Mangyan representatives from Mindoro Virgilio “Ka Mot” Bunsoy and Alangan tribe leader Librada “Ka Badang” Isidro. They discussed the current environmental situation of Mindoro and the disasters that it regularly experiences related to flooding and landslides caused by mining and mountainside blasting.

Galicha showed the rich biodiversity of Mindoro by presenting a map showing its key biodiversity and important bird areas. Unfortunately, when overlaid with the location of mining areas, it revealed overlaps causing many concerns for its natural landscapes. Citing the cause of recurrent massive landslides in the island, Galicha explained that in mining, drilling is done to know the mineral deposits undernealth; but it is common sense that if mountain blasting is added, landslide will naturally occur since one drilled hole can trigger other existing holes to cause a landslide.

Ka Mot said that mountain blasting in the island is currently being done to give way to the construction of the 8-MW Santa Clara hydro power plant project that will supply the island’s electricity needs; however, he pointed out that there was no mention of any mountain blasting in the Memorandum of Agreement among the Mangyan communities, the local government and the company in-charge of the hydro plant. When he verified this with the engineer in-charge, he was informed that mountain blasting is needed to finish the tunnel on its target deadline.

Aggravated by typhoon Nona in 2015, mountain blasting has caused several landslides forcing Oriental Mindoro Governor Alfonso Umali Jr., to halt the project in 2016.  Mangyan leader, Ka Badang painfully recalls that when typhoon Nona struck, the river overflowed, flooding devastated their community.  Their crops were destroyed and 200 families in one community were left homeless.

“Ang lupa at bundok ay katumbas ng aming buhay. Ang bundok po, ito ay aming pinakabangko dahil dito kami kumukuha ng aming ikinabubuhay,” Ka Badang passionately shared how the IPs see nature during the 346th Kamayan Forum.

Angelina Galang, Green Convergence President, explained that a hydropower plant, though seemingly a better alternative to fossil fuels, may be a false solution when it is not appropriate to the ecology of the place. This is why it is essential to include the indigenous inhabitants in consultations and decisions because they intimately know the area.

Ka Badang recommended to consider solar power as an alternative source of energy for their area because of its relatively less environmental impact.  She also asked for legal support so they can easily voice out and stand for their rights over their ancestral lands.

“Landslides: Today’s Recurrent Nightmare,” was held last January 18, 2019 at Kamayan Restaurant, EDSA, Mandaluyong City. Now on its 29th year, it is the 346th forum of Green Convergence, institutionalized to provide a platform for civil society, government, and media to discuss pressing environmental issues of the country. This month’s forum is supported by Kamayan Restaurant EDSA with the assistance of Forest Foundation Philippines.

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