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The Values We Live For

January 12, 2011 ·  By Fr. Shay Cullen

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The Values We Live For

Timuay Fernando Mudai of the Pigsalabukan Bangsa Subanon (PBS), expresses his disgust before his fellow Mindanaoan Lumads over the desecration of Mt. Canatuan in Siocon, Zamboanga del Norte, where in a Canadian-backed TVI Resource Development Inc. is currently mining for gold and copper.

While you might believe that the world is mired in a hopeless, all powerful culture of greed and selfish pleasure, take heart and inspiration from the thousands of people who risk their lives daily in the unselfish and heroic service of the oppressed and endangered people of the developing world.

Last week Columban Missionaries Father Sean Martin and Sister Patty Dinare were ordered to stand before the Regional Trial Court in Aurora about 40 kilometers from Midsalip, Pagadian City, Mindanao to answer charges that they were acting illegally in supporting the Subanen Indigenous people in holding a picket to block a mining company from drilling in the ancestral rain forest. There are three court cases against the brave rural folk who are trying to protect their lands, crops and forests from the relentless onslaught of the International mining juggernauts.

Driven by the surge in international prices of minerals, mining companies from the developed countries use local drillers to explore for the mineral deposits, then move in and take over. For more than fifteen years the remaining beautiful forests, rivers and mountains of Midsalip have been the target of plunderers and illegal loggers.

Yet despite the alleged abuse of power by some local government official and the Department of Environment Natural Resources(DENR) in giving permits and licenses to the mining corporations when they ought to be defending the people’s rights and the environment the farmers with church support and the missionaries have bravely withstood the incursions.

Crooked land grabbers out to takeover their ancestral lands and tear up the trees, mountains and rivers have been conniving with corrupt officials for years. The people need help. The untold damage this could cause would be catastrophic. No less than 15,000 Hectares of rice land and 8,056 hectares of fishponds and the lives of almost 400,000 people depend on preserving the natural food and life giving environment.

This is not to mention the benefits that the forests have as a carbon sink, absorbing the climate changing co2 that is causing floods and natural disasters around the world. If the international conference on climate change in Cancun recently told us anything, it is to save the forests and replant what has been destroyed.

The poverty of the people is growing for the past ten years since the local government of Midsalip began to appropriate for their own salaries, perks and benefits the Internal Revenue Allotment (IRA) which according to the General Appropriations Act must be used only for the basic services for the people. This is what Prescient Aquino anti-corruption team must look into. “If there is no corruption there is no poverty” he says. Well there is much poverty in Midsalip and the surrounding countryside where people have to survive on their own.

The mining corporations as represented by the Joint Foreign Chambers of commerce and the powerful rich Filipino families are plotting together with them to pressure President Nonoy Aquino and his officials to give into their demands to open up the lands, forest and mountains to them and their greedy destructive plans. They call it economic development but what the bankers did to the world economy these will do to the world’s natural environment. The damage is well underway in the Philippines. And the people everywhere must unite to stop it, write to Greenpeace, send a copy of this article and help make this an international environmental issue.

In these epic environmental battles, no one can be neutral. The injustice is so appalling. We must stand in solidarity with the poor but resilient people like the brave missionaries who have given their lives working with the people, defending human rights, dignity and ancestral lands.

Being put on trial for defending human rights and the dignity of the poor is courageously following in the footsteps of Jesus of Nazareth; it is the risk taking of the gospel and at the forefront of the ministry for justice.

What better way is there to live one’s short life as a true Christian on this planet than to take a stand with the poor, preserve life and uphold moral values and ask nothing in return but the privilege of serving others. No greater love is there than to give your life in the unpaid service of others. END

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