Friday, September 18, 2009
Of True Ants and Truants
I am having a wonderful time that early morning watching ants unfamiliar to me in a tree at the back of the Pastoral Center when me and Bishop Warlito I. Cajandig of Oriental Mindoro had a little chat. I was in Calapan last September 16 to 17 to attend the Mindoro LGU-CSO Conference on Mining Moratorium together with my boss and a bosom-buddy and co-worker. We are part of the more or less twenty participants coming from different Local Government Units (LGUs) and Civil Society Organizations (CSO) of Occidental Mindoro upon invitation of Gov. Arnan C. Panaligan. Though the gathering was held at the Provincial Capitol Square in Calapan City, we were billeted at the Bishop’s House in Brgy. Salong. The activity carried this theme : “Isang Mindoro, Isang Panindigan : Tutol Kami sa Minahan!” (One Mindoro, One Stand : We are Against Mining!)
The good bishop told me that he is very happy with the initial result of the conference where unity and solidarity against mining between two provinces of Mindoro was officially conveyed and forged. “It’s a welcome development and I would be more willing to attend the proposed continuation of this endeavor in your province”, he told me. We talked about their almost ten years of struggle against mining. Its ups and downs and the whole roller-coaster ride of said campaign aimed at environmental protection and integrity of creation. And I won’t forget what he told me that Thursday morning : “I just hope and pray that this struggle is a result of our faith”.
No doubt that the event is is succesful in a way. The Occidental Mindoro provincial officials headed by Gov. Josephine Y. Ramirez-Sato and Vice-Governor Mario Gene J. Mendiola came. Seven out of eleven of our Provincial Board members twice crossed the sea for the occasion. Gov. Sato delivered her speech,- in her familiar delivery style, proposing for a march and rally in Manila to ventilate united Mindoreños sentiment against Intex Resources and the holding of same conference in her province. But she did not mention nor utter a word about mining moratorium. They are just verbal fireworks in my own opinion. Colorful and beautiful but the heat and light are not lasting thus lack vital elements. Nevertheless, she received a warm round of applause from all of the participants because,- perhaps, of her oratorical genius or perceived sincerity. Or both.
But the sad thing is, all of them went out on the first day of the conference missing very important things like the discussions on the legality of mining moratoria especially the open forum and the island-wide planning. Except for Board Member Marian Haydee “Sugar” G. Villaroza, Environment Committee chair. During the workshop, Villaroza is like a little girl tied in an ant hill for she absorbed and answered every query and question (and even ire) of the Occidental LGU-CSO group. And for such patience and wit, I admired her.
According to the young legislator, they are crafting the moratorium step-by-step. They are about to conduct committee hearing in every municipality to avoid technicalities and other legal hassles before the body could pass and approve one. She did not mention when. This is despite of the fact that earlier in the program, Atty. Grace Villanueva of the Legal Resource Center and Atty. Girlie De Guzman of PANLIPI,- two of the Manila-based support groups who participated the affair, discussed various of laws and jurisprudence as bases for the legality of the mining moratorium passed by some LGUs in the land. Despite of the fact that nine out of eleven municipalities of Occidental Mindoro already passed a resolution and ordinance against large-scale mining. Despite of the fact that the 25-year mining moratorium ordinance of Oriental Mindoro in January 2002 came out without any resolution coming from the municipal level. According to the speakers, the provincial board should initially pass the moratorium and let the mining companies question or challenge it in court or other venue. Despite of the fact that Mayor Eric Constantino of Abra De Ilog and Vice-Mayor Eduardo Gadiano of Sablayan, Msgr. Ruben S. Villanueva, Vicar General of Apostolic Vicariate of San Jose,- the priests and the nuns and the rest of the Occidental participants are expecting that the delegation would assure us of the immediate passing of said legislation. LGUs have to make the first move of passing such ordinance according to the two lady lawyers. But sadly, the elected officials of my province who came to Calapan in full force went out,- one by one, like ants towards the queen,- err.. the door to go out of the hall.
On the positive end, Governors Sato and Panaligan led the signing of a Petition Paper against the Mindoro Nickel Project of the Intex Resources together with more or less eighty participants. But that document is not sufficient in my view.
In his talk during the opening of the conference last Wednesday, Bishop Cajandig told us, “We had one thing in common. We are believers. And this belief must lead us somewhere.” I believe that the initial path that would lead us to that “somewhere” is the Occidental Mindoro mining moratorium.
I believe that the service-giving ants are the true ants and they are not truants…
(Photo credit : rwsphoto.blogspot.com)