Testimony of Columban Father Sean Martin on Environmental Secrets Revealed
February 10, 2012 · By Sean Martin
Father Sean is standing with the people to oppose destructive mining and to protect the environment.Here is his personal testimony in regard to the legal action and the environment situation in parts of Northern Mindanao.
The hearing which was supposed to be on Dec 21 at the court of appeal in Cagayan de Oro it was postponed and in January it was re- set for Jan 26. It would be an extra bonus for us for the court to grant a TEPO. Temporary environmental Protection Order. This would safeguard the environment, and command the DENR to stop mining and to look after the environment.
The arrival and destruction caused by Sendong which only exposed the weak watershed areas and continued logging and mining in the hinterlands of Cagayan de Oro and Iligan, has largely been kept secret.
The awareness has been largely covered up by the gravity of the destruction and loss of life, trauma and the reluctance of political leaders to get to the root of the problem, yet the destruction to the environment continues as I witnessed last week in an Ocular inspection into the hinterland of Cagayan de Oro.
I was in Cagayan de Oro for an environmental seminar for 3 days. On the way to our destination many landslides could be seen. But even on the very steep slopes 70- 80 degrees where there were trees the land did not slide.
One river was very muddy early in the morning even though there was no rain the night before. My companion Rock told us that there was mining going on in the area. He even pointed out 2 garages where mining equipment was kept and repaired along the main road.
When we got to the area the leader(Dato) of the Heliginon indigenous group there who had agreed to meet with our group of 11 told us in 2 word about the changes he saw, “Opaw Na.” The hills are bare of trees. We saw Banana and Rubber plantations, There were no birds or butterflies to be seen or heard. The environment is only one step away from being a desert.
At the end of November and again in December, Atty Ben has continued to outline how he sees our case having a strong environmental stand and has clarified which type of evidence he would like to dwell on.
On Jan 25 Atty Ben Cabrido and Atty Joan met the group in Catadman Ozamiz to finalize the evidence for the court. Our evidence is very extensive from many maps & docuentation & showing how productive the Zamboanga Peninsula. Billions of pesos worth of Food produced every year.
Dr Jong Cuaresma who specializes in Bio Diversity and went with the Indigenous people of Midsalip to the forest to survey how vibrant the old growth forest still is in areas that has not been logged in the eighties. This is the watershed area for thousands of hectares of riceland, & fishponds.
Clive Wicks & Robert Goodland who are in the country in Davao for a International Mining conference pointed out the the Zamboanga Peninsula and Mindanao in General is a no 1 food produce . Farmers excel at this. It is folly to allow mining to destroy watersheds and have to use scarce foreign exchange to buy rice on the international market when Philippine farmers are the best at producing food if the environment is not destroyed by mining or logging. Both Clive and Robert prepared Judicial affidavits Question and answer style so that their research Philippine Food or Mining could be included as evidence. (see report www.preda.org)
After lunch about 15 went to Cagayan de Oro and were welcomed by Fr Jude and the staff at Patag. Accommodation was well prepared. It was a huge bonus to be in one place to finish the affidavits and evidence. After Supper Atty. Ben spoke with us about how historic it was to have a writ of Kalikasan from the supreme court. He outlined how he was going to present evidence to the court which is in fact gathering evidence for the supreme court. The case has Dual Jurisdiction.
He also answered questions.
Fr Archie (who is included in the civil Case in Aurora) was thee after supper with 15 supporters from Pagadan. It was inspiring listening to Atty. Ben.
Atty. Joan continued to meet with and gather evidence. Dr Jong arrived from Ozamiz at about midnight and worked on his affidavit till 2 am. He told me in the morning that Atty. Joan spent the whole night preparing the evidence.
On Jan 26 th at the court only those with ID could get a pass. Entrance was limited to about 30 people and some of our supporters were not able to get in to the hearing.
After dropping a group at the court I went back to our house in Patag with Nitz to get some evidence which was being put on disk.
When we arrived the debate from the side of the MGB and DENR was that the mining companies should be represented individually at the hearing.
Atty. Ben pointed out that the Case was to clarify where are the areas that are excluded from mining Law RA 7942. ( New Mining Law)
These areas are Old growth forests, Watershed areas, Bio Diverse areas, Nipas protected areas, Ancestral Domain of indigenous people. (which can allow projects only after proper consultation according to their culture through a process known as Free Prior Informed Concent)
The justices did not seem to be able to pick up the distinction that the Mining Law does not allow mining applications in the above mention areas.
The MGB has in fact allowed mining applications in all areas of the Zamboanga Peninsula.
Both councils were given the task of writing a memorandum stating whether the mining companies should or should not be at the hearing.
After that Atty. Ben asked Permission to approach the bench, ³ Off the record your Honor Please². MGB and DENR attys. approached reluctantly. They spoke quietly for 5 minutes. Atty Ben signaled for a map. I knew he needed the Forest reserve map and the mining application map. I brought one and atty. Joan the other. He was trying to show that there were huge areas of Mining applications which were in watershed areas. MGB objected to showing the maps.
Finally the court gave an order that both have 20 days to present a memorandum.clarifying if the mining companies should be included in or why not!.
The justices informed us that they will be having a 3 day seminar on Environmental law in mid February. Next hearing is set for March 15.
After Fr Archie from Pagadian Diocese, suggested that we meet at the Cathedral. There were about 30 in the group who met upstairs. Atty Ben summarized the proceedings and clarified that the writ of Kalikasan is not just an ordinary environmental case. The laws are completely different and in harmony with nature. Even the court laws follow a different process. The environment for the future will be saved by a massive campaign of the relatedness of the trees nature and sustainability. Afterwards while the group were eating lunch brought from Patag atty. Ben came onto the Veranda of the Convento looking towards the mountains and explained that the church and the legal System had a huge task to bring awareness to all.
I reflected that it was 37 years since I was last upstairs in the bishops residence when I stayed with Bishop Crownin in 1975. At the back of the Cathedral many small houses were destroyed by the terrible floods just before Christmas.
On the way home at Iligan Dr Jong said he wanted a picture of a Balyan tree that saved the lives of 7 people. Its roots are 3 times as deep as it is high.
We found the tree just on the Cagayan side of the huge bridge in Iligan where so many people lost their lives. Our Subaanen companions Welma, Richardo, and Mario appreciated the tree. 3 people living in a house near the tree were happy to describe how deep the water was and what happened to them during the flood.
Thanks to all who have helped by making the trip to Cagayan so fruitful and all who have supported financially and by their prayres.