February 27, 2011 in Featured
By PIERRE ZUPPIROLI
My visit to the Philippines started in Palawan. I wanted to encounter it’s renowned biodiversity by walking in it’s rainforests and swimming in it’s coral filled sea. At the end of January, I was in Puerto Princessa. It was only later, when I arrived in Manila, that I found out that, the very same day, Gerry Ortega had died.He had been an ABS-CBN journalist and was an enthusiastic ecologist. A few days earlier, family of the late botanist Leonard Co, filed murder charges against officers and members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines. These two victims are reknowned ecologists and promoters of sustainable solutions. The first was protesting against the aggression of the mining industry on the rainforest and the mangrove in Palawan. The second was a botanist specialized in the knowledge of medicinal plants. These two are victims of political violence executed by those who are supposedly in power to protect them.
In the Philippines there are almost 13,500 species of flora which compromise 5% of the whole worlds species of flora. There are 4,951 species of marine plants, 1,201 are considered endemic by the IUCN. Two hundred ninety (290) sites are classified into various protected areas . It is my first time in the Philippines, and I knew before coming the importance of the archipelago’s biodiversity; coral gardens and mangroves, wetlands and lichen forests, bamboo grass meadows found on the highest peaks …
This diversity is very linked to the richness or ‘poorness’ of the soils and the use of them since centuries by indigenous communities. These soils also contain plenty of precious minerals. It is so easy for some specialists to find copper, silver, iron, gold, zinc, lead …Yet, a long time ago the indigenous peoples were finding minerals to make necklaces, bracelets, tools used for daily tasks and rituals.
Since the end of the 19th century the huge industries have been constructing huge mines and huge dams, creating a unique and incredible degradation on Mother nature and on the people who exist in harmony with her. Not only the mountains, the wetlands, the marine life, the flora and the mangroves are violated, but also those who protect their only chance to survive.
What will happen in the next couple of years? By its laws, the Filipino government approves the profitable control by foreign industries on most of the protected areas of the country. Communities rarely see any benefits from the presence of mining exploitations on their lands. There are no indemnities for the damages caused by the mining operations on the water and on the soils.
Everywhere around the world, in western countries also, globalization brings more and more degradation on every type of habitat. The poorest populations may not survive. The example of Haiti shows that after the destruction of nature by deforestation and mining, dictatorship, militarization and ethnocide, populations are left defenseless in the wait of cyclones caused by climate changes, or earthquakes.
So what are the lessons to be taken? They are given to us by the indigenous people who live under their ancestral traditions and collectively work for the stopping of development. They can give us lessons on non-development, sustainable living, fraternity and unity. We must cut the uniformity of the global and unique way of development because it is an irresponsible and individualistic way of thinking. Mother nature is generous and has its allies in all countries of the world. They have to unite their voices: women and men, indigenous peoples and city dwellers, the poor and the discriminated, each leading it’s battle in a unique way but uniting under a common goal: to fight against capitalist exploitations. I like to think of the example of a bird migrating from one country to another, feeding on different seeds, waters and insects. Finding it’s way locally, but also globally. Finding in each region it visits the food it needs and the richness of differences.
Even if the fear and the violence done by the state and it’s army is increasing, Filipinos should continue their struggle to defend their land and their precious resources. # nordis.net
(Pierre is French, an environmental educator and had been working with NGO’s protecting animals.At the moment, he is on a visit in the Cordillera through Innabuyog).