Saturday, October 3, 2009

Reclaiming Glorious Earth

I COME across this article in the internet written by Atty. Tibs Palasan, entitled, “Saving Mantigue”, published in the February 17, 2009 issue of Sun Star Cagayan. I find this article of Atty. Palasan very enlightening in the light of the local government’s determined move to relocate all residents in Mantigue Island in response to the call to preserve our environment and reclaim its glorious past.

Tropical storm “Ondoy”, considered the worst natural disaster the country has experienced in 40 years, gave impetus to the concern raised by Atty. Palasan and that of the local government of Mahinog. Ondoy is a sobering reminder that if human assaults on nature and environment go unabated, nature’s wrath to humanity is more destructive and like Ondoy could strike at a moment’s notice.

Here’s the full text of Atty. Palasan’s article.

THE environmental problem is colossal. But its solution may not be necessarily so. Sporadic concerns of the environment may do the trick. Eco-friendly solutions throughout the globe may avert global warming.

The environment concerns of the local government of Camiguin, an island-province in Northern Mindanao, are what we need at this time.

Three kilometers off the shore from Barangay San Roque, Mahinog, Camiguin is an island with four hectares of evergreen forests fringed with sandy beaches. The boat ride to Mantigue is quite exciting, as one has to contend with strong diverging currents due to the open sea. One side of the island is ideal for swimming as it is shallow and has few corals. The opposite side is a deep drop off ideal for snorkeling and diving. The shore is powdery white.

But all of Mantigue’s splendor is threatened by the stench and murk brought about by 43 families who reside in the area. Without any potable water, residents made the sea around the island an open garbage bin. Septic tanks were constructed along the narrow shore that seepage of human waste is common. Worse, there are those who just sit along the shore, do their thing and cover the dirt with sand. The smell of human urine is all over the place.

The march to environmental damage seemed unabated. Until the province of Camiguin resolved to salvage whatever was left of the island.

The island was declared a protected area by virtue of the presidential edict. The Department of Environment and Natural Resources in tandem with the local government of Camiguin offered to relocate the residents. Half of the residents took the offer but around 22 families decided to stay on, defying lawful orders.

The move was decidedly unpopular. For a politician eyeing for re-election, evicting the remaining residents was a minus in the campaign calculus later on. Yet, in a move showing political will, Gov. JJ Romualdo had the defiant residents arrested and hauled to court. The criminal case for violating an environmental law was filed against the defiant residents.

Unfortunately however, the 23 families, instead of transferring to relocation areas provided for by the local government, decided to fight it out in court. Whether the prosecution’s case is strong or the defense is tenable is beside the point. The merits of the case could not be discussed as it would constitute sub judice.

Needless to say, the criminal case was intended to discourage the residents from fighting a futile cause. Public Prosecutor Alma Conception Parreno in a brief chat said the criminal case, not the civil case, was filed because the former carries possible imprisonment, hence the residents may back off. The strategy was a partial success. Half of the residents have relocated.

But obviously, the defiant residents are fighting. They have pecuniary interest to protect. Confirmed reports have it that the remaining residents have been mulcting divers and tourists for years now.

The criminal case has not discouraged the remaining residents. For they obviously prefer to go to trial than lose outright their source of income. It is now time for the local government to shift the legal strategy. The criminal case may go the long appellate process. If convicted, these residents can appeal to the Regional Trial Court, Court of Appeals and finally the Supreme Court. By the time they residents are convicted with finality, the damage wrought on Mantigue Island may already be irreversible.

To compliment the criminal case, the local government may file an unlawful detainer case which follows summary procedure. Compared to the criminal case, the civil case is a summary proceeding wherein the case may be decided based on the affidavits and position papers instead of testimonies. More, the judgment in the unlawful detainer case is immediately executory even if the losing party appeals the case. Demolition of the remaining structures may proceed despite the appeal.

Efforts to save the environment must be supported anytime and anywhere. The brakes should be applied. We caused global warming hence nobody else but we can reverse it.

A Native American Indian sage once said the first global war was the real clash of civilization - started when Christopher Columbus, Marco Polo, Ferdinand Magellan and the explorers of the olden times, supplanted the native cultures of venerating the sun, moon, sea, volcano, mountain, river, and even cows, as in India. The so-called western civilization brought the consumerist attitude that anything on earth is potential revenue. Even the island such as Mantigue was not spared.

After years of environmental depredations, what we have is a damaged Mother Earth.

Perhaps, this is the time to wage another global war - this time to reclaim glorious Earth. We can only reclaim Earth if we recapture the pre-exploration culture which proclaims the interconnectedness of man and everything on earth, that whatever harm humanity does to the environment, in the end man bears the wrath of nature.

Sporadic battles to save the environment deserve to be lauded. Saving Mantigue may not be the grandest eco-friendly action. But this is precisely the type of individual and readily doable concerns for nature that may be the best response to the environmental crisis we are in.

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