Troubled waters
AS A MATTER OF FACT - Sara Soliven De Guzman (The Philippine Star) - April 16, 2018 - 12:00am

With all his callous and cold blooded ways, sadistic and seemingly heartless leadership, the President has truly presented to us the brutal realities that the nation faces – a parochial government, illegal drugs, high rate of criminality, corruption, insurgency and terrorism, West Philippine Sea issues, possible shift to Federalism, integration of the Bangsomoro Law, diaspora of the Filipinos, and the deterioration of our environment among others.

In his 2017 SONA, he said: Ours is a rich country. Wealth that this country is endowed with is a gift from God to be utilized for the people’s welfare and the common good. I do not believe that this gift was given to us to be merely viewed or appreciated, but to be extracted from the earth and utilized to make life worth living. That is why I say that it is not enough that we mine this wealth. What is more important is that we convert the raw material thereof into finished products for international and local purposes. That way, it will not only be the few who are the rich but also the poor who are many who will benefit therefrom.

However, in the extraction and utilization of these resources, extreme care must be exercised that we do not recklessly and needlessly harm the environment. Responsible, regulated and sustainable development is what we advocate and require. The protection of the environment must be made a priority ahead of mining and all other activities that adversely affect one way or another. And this policy is non-negotiable.

I sternly warn…. I am warning all mining operations and contractors to refrain from the unbridled and irresponsible destruction of our watersheds, forests, and aquatic resources. You have gained much from mining, we only get about 70 billion a year, but you have considerably neglected your responsibility to protect and preserve – and even the tax, it’s about five percent – environment for posterity.

I am holding all mining companies and its officials responsible for the full and quick clean-up, restoration and rehabilitation of all areas damaged by mining activities, and the extension of all necessary support to the communities that have suffered mining’s disastrous effects on their health, livelihood, and environment, among others.

These are strong words and direct pronouncements made by the President a year ago. Today, we clearly witness his efforts on Boracay. But what about the rest of the 7,640 islands and islets? What about the rivers, the lakes, the dams and other water tributaries? What about the mountains and the hills around us? How can his administration efficiently work on the clean- up and the protection and preservation of the environment?

DENR Secretary Cimatu may be a working horse but he is not superman. The President should be thinking of a better way to support the work of only one DENR chief. Secretary Cimatu on the other hand bettter cleanse his office especially in the regional areas where rampant corruption of his men is taking place. The work of the DENR falls into blind eyes and deaf ears once at the local level because they are allegedly in cahoots with the LGUs.

You may have noticed the number of our islands have already increased. To date there are 7,641 islands. Yes, we have so much to be thankful for. God has blessed us with so many natural wonders. We don’t need Disneyland or Universal Studios. We have the real thing. So, we need to take very good care of everything that we have – including the diversity of our beautiful people.

The problem lies on our leaders, both local and national. They have become Barbarians. While many nations around the world are working on the ascent of leadership, our country seems to be encouraging and feeding on the descent of man. Senate and Congress continue to pass bills, but they are not hitting the right target. They should pass bills that matter to the better development and progress of this nation.

Anyway, going back to the protection of our land and waters. If the President already pushed the red button on Boracay, shouldn’t he do the same to the other islands? Many of our islands need rehabilitation. Illegal settlers abound in some islands. Who will control the proliferation of such groups in these islands and islets?

Next, if the President is addressing the mining problems head on, why does it seem to be taking the back seat and being set aside? There are so many small and big scale mining companies popping up (many owned by foreigners) and continue to grow in numbers. In San Felipe, Zambales, the ECOLINK group that was ordered by Secretary Cimatu to stop its operations (quarrying/ dredging) allegedly continues to work at night. The Barangay and the Mayor are not policing them at all. The people continue to feel violated and cry in despair. Secretary Cimatu already went there and yet his presence and orders have not been obeyed. It is clear that the local government in the area is not cooperating with the national governement. What do you do in such circumstances, Mr. President? I guess this is why the President is keen on setting up a federal government.

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In times like this, I always turn to my father’s favorite poem. It gives me the hope that one day, our leaders and citizens will be awakened and will rise up to saving the nation.

GOD, give us men! A time like this demands; strong minds, great hearts, true faith and ready hands. Men whom the lust of office does not kill. Men whom the spoils of office can not buy. Men who possess opinions and a will. Men who have honor, men who will not lie. Men who can stand before a demagogue and damn his treacherous flatteries without winking! Tall men, sun-crowned, who live above the fog in public duty, and in private thinking. For while the rabble, with their thumb-worn creeds, their large professions and their little deeds, mingle in selfish strife, lo! Freedom weeps, wrong rules the land and waiting justice sleeps. (Josiah Gilbert Holland)

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