Monday, April 30, 2012

Green Pope, Green Code

I just finished reading my newly acquired book called “Ten Commandments for the Environment: Pope Benedict XVI Speaks Out for Environment” written by Woodeene Koenig-Bricker. Koenig-Bricker is the former editor of Catholic Parent magazine and she is the author of three other spiritual books. Published and distributed by Paulines Publishing House in 2011, the book is a good read for all those who desire for a sustainable future. It is about the Holy See’s views and teachings on creation and environmental responsibility including Holy Father’s theological reflections and quotations.

In the book’s foreword Bill McKibben rightfully observed, “The Catholic Church has often been slow to engage on issues – but once engaged, it can be a powerful source. …. [Pope’s] message is neither liberal nor conservative, it is just plain hopeful.” BXVI is rightfully called the ‘greenest” pope but among his Ten Commandments for Environment, due to my present work, I can relate well to his sixth commandment. It reads, “The politics of development must be coordinated with the politics of ecology, and every environmental cost in developmental projects must be weighted carefully.” This statement helped me connect its wisdom to the presently implemented Environmental Code of LGU-Sablayan initiated by Mayor Eduardo B. Gadiano when he was still the vice mayor along with the rest of the local legislative council and the former LCE. If Catholics have a “Green Pope” in BXVI, in municipality of Sablayan, we have a “Green Code” aimed at keeping the town ecologically intact and viable.

But do not get me wrong. I am not comparing anybody to the Roman Pontiff for that would be a stupid thing do. All I wish to say is that, like any other LGUs, we have a working environmental charter that is in some ways go hand in hand with the teachings of the Church pertaining to environmental protection.

Municipal Ordinance No. 2008-003 is an ordinance enacting the Environmental Code of Sablayan. The local charter consists of important details on usage and protection of natural resources, specifically, forest, mineral, and water including solid waste management, ecotourism and land-use planning. This was signed December 8, 2008. The Environmental Code has this as one of the principles: “People are mere stewards of God’s gift of nature’s bounty tasked with its judicious utilization for the future generation; All development activities shall give due importance and respect to the cultures and practices of the indigenous communities and people’s belief system, incorporate gender equity and population concerns consistent with ecological principles…”

The Compendium of Social Teachings of the Church initiated by the present pope makes this responsibility clear: “An economy respectful of the environment will not have the maximization of profits as its only objective, because environmental protection cannot be assured solely on the basis of financial calculations of costs and benefits.” Rightfully so, any economic development must be consonant with environmental protection and not only aimed at boosting government revenue. Economic development must be secondary and guided by strict ecological standards. Those are the same principles behind the “Green Code” of Sablayan. This is what every local chief executive and legislator should be aware of specially those who are in ecologically fragile island provinces such as ours. We ordinary citizens are not spared.

Because if we fail to do so, if we do not collectively struggle against foreign intruders out to destroy our natural resources, we become Occidental Mindoro’s most deadly air pollutants or toxic wastes.…

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Basketball Legends in Sablayan on Earth Day

It’s sports extravaganza all the way here in Sablayan. After boxing, here comes basketball.

After the triumphant success of Drian Francisco via first round knockout over Thailand's Pichitchai Twins Gym to capture the interim IBF Pacific super bantamweight title last April 14 brought to us by Bong Marquez Boxing Promotion, Saved by the Bell Promotion and LGU-Sablayan, local basketball fanatics are expecting to see five of their favorite Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) legends. The organizers behind PBA legends versus local-import selection are looking forward for a forceful impact, ticket sales-wise, of said exhibition game like the straight right unloaded by Francisco right to the chin of Pichitchai that sent the latter to the canvass at 33 seconds of the first round.

Said game is sponsored by CDSS Batch 78 and LGU-Sablayan and according to Elvis Leyto, one of its organizers, 5 former basketball pros composed of Marlou Aquino, Nelson Asaytono, Val David, Edward Jospeh Feihl and Noli Locsin will be coming over for the loop show. The event will be held at Sablayan Astrodome on April 22, Sunday, global celebration of World Earth Day. Coincidentally, the 2012 Mayor Eduardo B. Gadiano Summer Basketball League is on-going and very well supported by basketball fans all over the town.

The advocacy for the defense of the Earth and protection of environment can also spearheaded by individual athletes and sportsmen including the whole team. Only last month, the world-famous Harlem Globetrotters inked with Earth Day Network, a non-profit organization whose mission is to broaden, diversify and mobilize the environmental movement, on an Earth Day initiative that will help spread the green message to fans worldwide. The team already used a special green Earth Day Ball for their youth clinics in Beijing, China, recently.

The green efforts of Earth Day Network are vital to the future of the environment, and the Globetrotters are thrilled to partner with them on their effort to spread the word,” said Angela Leaney, executive vice president of brand marketing for the Globetrotters. “We are proud to celebrate Earth Day with our fans and help in any way we can.” For the news, please click here.

As I have said time and again, sports and advocacy for Mother Earth may come in a one whole package. Sadly, sports enthusiasts in Occidental Mindoro are not so (or not yet) inclined on this line of thought…

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

How to Recognize the Risen Lord in Occidental Mindoro Context

Like the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, we, citizens of this province, are in deep frustration. We are frustrated with the socio-political and economic situation in our midst. We are frustrated how the two leading political titans divided instead of uniting us, and how they are pulling each other down. We are frustrated with the series of unsolved crimes happening in supposedly quiet and peaceful places like beaches and fields. We are frustrated with the sub-human conditions and anxiety of our Mangyan sisters and brothers because of the imminent threat of mining and oil exploration projects and exploitation of pseudo welfare organizations. We are frustrated with the misery of our fisher folks due to an alarming decline in their catch because of illegal ways of fishing often let go by some barangay and LGU officials. We are frustrated with landlessness of majority of our farm workers while suffering from the claws of usury and loan sharks amidst plunder of the public coffer by some of our public officials. Some are frustrated with the saddest consequence of political dynasty and patronage politics while many seem not to care about it. Upland communities are frustrated with the denigration of our forests due to legal and illegal logging that surely could attribute to climate change. Many of us are frustrated how cockfighting proceed is used to fund parish pastoral center. Majority of us are frustrated with how authority and power being wield for political and business gains of some local elites.

The list seems endless. So is our frustration.

We are people of frustration like the two disciples on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24: 13-25). So frustrated to long for someone to talk to and to lean on, someone who would listen. Someone must butt-in for these frustrations. Someone (or perhaps a human institution) that would break and share the “bread” as medium of the Lord’s prophetic and liberating message and fearlessly proclaim her social agenda. That someone or something could be our Particular Church, the Apostolic Vicariate of San Jose.

But what hindered her to regain her ground, like what Jesus did four times on His way to Calvary, after that sacrilegious fire and continue the mission of social communication apostolate to be the believers’ mouthpiece against the aforementioned immoral situation? Finding funds and focus, as a talented steward would know, are more sensible than finding faults and foes.

Unlike Jesus, they ignored the magnitude of those faithful walking down the road victimized by such unholy deeds of influential people and systems. Every task is worth accomplishing like how every pastoral cross is worth lifting. In sum, the question is this: What happened, pastorally speaking, to Church’s social teachings in the diocesan level at this particular juncture? Until when shall we resurrect from our ashes like the mythical Phoenix? When will we move on and remain an active Church aiming for social transformation? The gravity of these problems cannot afford us to enjoy our regular siesta.

Unlike before that we led the PAKRIS or Pamayanang Kristiyano, together with the pro-environment LGUs, cause-oriented organizations and Mangyan ethnic groups in staging series of successful mass actions against the Mindoro Nickel Project (MNP) and the Service Contract 53. Not to exclude our faith-based advocacy campaigns against gambling and the power crisis in the province and the other collective pastoral endeavors in the past. Including charity programs like educational assistance to poor but deserving sons and daughters of our indigent catechists and lay ministers. Those relief and rehabilitation preparedness aimed at communities affected by man- made and natural calamities, militarization or typhoons. Those are services at the diocesan front in the past that we rendered and worth mentioning here with all modesty and humility.

Our present Church leaders just passed us by while we are on our road to Emmaus in those particular socio-political instances. Jesus taught us that every person is worth stopping for but those people seem unmoved by our present predicament. As a result, unlike the two disciples on road to Emmaus, the people who live in far-flung, poor communities, the indigenous peoples in the mountains, the relatives and victims of unsolved recent crimes and all those I have mention above, failed to see and recognize Jesus in them!

Priests and lay people alike do not “break bread” only by regularly appearing on television celebrating healing masses. Neither by giving bowls of porridge to children who would come to hear mass or by taking care of the temporal goods of the Church and by wining and dining with the wealthy project donors, but also by breaking and sharing of the burdens and crosses of the victims of structural and systematic social sins and ills. It concretized too by joining the Pamayanang Kristiyano (PAKRIS) in their misery, hopes and struggles as citizens and believers no matter how risky it may be. It is likewise through keeping her social action mandates she can respond to the long agony of our people in this “forgotten half of the island.” This mission animates alongside with equally important sacramental, devotional and liturgical duties or healing ministry. This is imperative and not mere optional role of the Church no matter how controversial it may appear.

Pope Benedict XVI in his recent trip to Brazil said, “The Church is the advocate of justice and of the poor, precisely because she does not identify with politicians neither with partisan interests.” He added, “Only by remaining independent can she teach the great criteria and inalienable values, guide consciences and offer a life choice that goes beyond political sphere.” Then and now, this concern is not fully addressed among the ranks of the clergy and the lay people in our local Church.

In his letter to the Philippine Bishops in June 28, 1986 called “Ministry of Teaching and Guidance at the Service of Truth and Justice”, Blessed John Paul II rightly said, “This service to man will demand an intense evangelical effort, which is the proclamation of God’s salvation, in every context where people live and work. It will thus be faithful to an integral proclamation of the Gospel that must spread its light upon earthly realities, in such a way that may be helped free himself from everything that oppresses him and alienates him, so that he may be enabled to travel the path to his full self-realization, both earthly and transcendental.” We have no other option but keep our social action arm, charity programs and radio ministry incarnated now.

But it cannot be achieved without dialogue among us faithful. We have to be open to communication and communion. In his book “The Making of a Local Church”, Bishop Francisco F. Claver, SJ wrote, “In a church that is to be communion, mutual listening is a sine qua non for everyone: laity listening to the hierarchy, hierarchy listening to the laity, and all listening to the Spirit. Again, the need to a discerning Church- and a church that is in dialogue at all times, both externally (with the world at large) and with itself (with its members both clerical and lay). But dialogue is communication. So for it to be truly dialogic Church, it must be par excellence a church of communication.” We need not a fixed or closed mind. In such a situation there will be no dialogue but only an attempt to assert or impose the position of one on the other. Without brotherly dialogue, we cease to be a church.

To put them more accurately, men of faith cannot afford to lip service our social teachings on charity, advocacy and Traditions of the Church. We need to cast out our nets into these social “deeps”. Indeed, the Church must be sensitive to the “signs of times” (i.e., the socio-political and economic context of our province) as she manifests herself in the inspiration and frustration of the people of God.

It is only through this breaking and sharing away our self beyond our comfort zones and convictions that the poor and downtrodden recognize Jesus’ image in us.

Like how the Risen One recognized by his disciples on a village along the road to Emmaus…

Photo : SJCS File, Salafay

Monday, April 2, 2012

Of Footsteps and Conserved Areas

Two leading Taobuid leaders, namely, Juanito Lumawig and Fausto Novelozo with his aide Poor Galubidan attended the First National Conference on Indigenous Community Conserved Areas (ICCA) in the Philippines held last March 29-30, 2012. Since Mt. Iglit-Baco was declared by the government as protected area within municipalities of Sablayan and Calintaan, yours truly and Mr. Samson Tejada of Calintaan were there including its area supervisor PASU Rodel Boyles of DENR-PAWB. Almost all of the IP luminaries nationwide attended headed by Datu Vic Saway and Datu Ed Banda of Mindanao, among others. Initiating said National Conference are different organizations here and abroad. On top on the list was PAWB-DENR’s New Conservation Areas in the Philippines Project (NewCAPP); the Philippine Association for Intercultural Development, Inc (FAFID); the Koalisyon ng mga Katutubong Samahan ng Pilipinas (KASAPI); the National College of Public Administration and Governance (NCPAG) and ICCA Consortium, an international association for the promotion of recognition and support of the ICCAs.

People from the national government came and among them were DENR Usec. Analiza Rebuella Teh, Sen. Koko Pimentel, NCIP chair Zenaida Brigida H. Pawid and Commission on Human Rights (CHR) chair Etta Rosales. Around 220 participants packed the Assembly Hall of the (NCPAG) at UP- Diliman, Quezon City. Two of the main objectives of the gathering are to generate common understanding among IP organizations, NGOs, LGUs and the national government including all the development partners on the concept of ICCAs, their value to the communities and their conservation to biodiversity conservation. Also to strengthen awareness on the contribution of IPs in the management of the ICCAs; the threats facing their sustainability; and enjoined concerned stakeholders into positive action to address these threats and finding consensus on the National ICCA framework and strategies. As a major output of the ICCA Conference, the so-called “Manila Declaration came into the limelight.

From the National Conference on ICCA opened a new challenge for us LGUs of Calintaan and Sablayan, in our conservation initiatives in Mt. Iglit-Baco National Park. Said conservation area is an ASEAN heritage park. This multi-strata of evergreen forest of dry season deciduous shrubs and trees and habitat of the biggest remaining population of the endangered Tamaraws. LGU-Sablayan, especially now under the administration of Mayor Eduardo B. Gadiano, believes that the Taobuids and the Alangan Mangyans in his municipality should be the traditional caretakers and primary end beneficiaries of the forests and its natural resources and the activities toward these economic activity must be anchored on biodiversity conservation. In creating the Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs Office or IPAO and his championing for the mandatory IP representation in local legislative boards, our local chief executive is all out in empowering the IPs in deciding, implementing and enforcing management decision on projects especially within their ancestral domain. His administration closely coordinates with IP bodies such as the National Commission for the Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) as well as numerous NGOs working with the Mangyans. As a true believer of Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Act or IPRA, Mayor Ed hold true to its provision which states that the ICCs have the right to manage their ancestral domains through traditional resource management practices. These principles should immediately turn into local plans, implementations and action. Efforts like those needed continuity. There are still a lot of unfinished businesses for my principal, indeed. He is also supportive of the immediate issuance of Certificate of Ancestral Domain Title (CADT) to strengthen the IPs right in managing the ICCA.In Occidental Mindoro, the ICCA is threatened by the Mindoro Nickel Project or MNP.

Aside from getting ICCA 101, the Conference became an opportunity to meet my new friends and seatmates from DENR-Region III specifically Ma’am Minerva J. Martinez and her staff, Precious Lopez (AKA Apples)and Ms. Grace C. Diamante, Executive Director of Mindoro Biodiversity Conservation Foundation, Inc. or MBCFI.

In parting, allow me to say that the First National Conference on ICCA in the Philippines is this: “Nature Conservation in the Footsteps of Our Ancestors”. Very poetic, isn’t it? Sad thing is, mostly in community projects such as this: the only visible and acknowledged footprints are not those of indigenous peoples and their ancestors but of those in the academe, technocrats, some politicians and bureaucrats.

They are carrying the IPs towards their modern but aggressive Golgothas…