HomeCommentaryStop sacrificing nature for greed and profit

Stop sacrificing nature for greed and profit

Of the 13 major bays in the country, 10 are already biologically dead; of the 25 major rivers, 15 are already dried-up or silted

The late Environment Secretary Gina Lopez was absolutely correct when during her stint as Secretary she courageously stopped, without fear or favor, the digging or drilling and blasting to remove resource or ore/minerals aptly called open-pit mining.

As a passionate environmentalist sui generis, open pit mining operations must be stopped with urgent sense of urgency. Secretary Lopez understood very well that open-pit mining was the number one culprit why our fishery and marine resources were rapidly vanishing.

The massive digging or drilling and blasting in the uplands through open-pit mining had caused thousands if not billions of tons of soil to be carried by the rivers to the sea, destroying sea life.

Of the 13 major bays in the country, 10 are already biologically dead; of the 25 major rivers, 15 are already dried-up or silted. Seventy-five percent of our mangroves, the spawning ground of fish, are already totally destroyed and only five percent is in excellent condition. Gone are our corral reefs, the finest on earth.

It is quite a pity that while the Philippine Archipelago has been described before by the president of the UN-FAO, Dr. Kent Carpenter, as “the center of the center of marine life on earth,” such wealth had vanished in a “wink of an eye.”

It was then the period of martial law when Japanese trawlers were massively raking our seas, then processed and canned the fishes caught, and sold it to us. After martial law, our archipelago, too vast to guard by our Naval Force, became a “dumping ground” of toxic wastes by advanced countries like Canada, Australia, and South Korea.

Despite these horrendous death blows to our archipelago, what remains of our marine life is being taken advantaged of by China as the West Philippine Sea is now the subject of massive raking by well-guarded Chinese vessels, in gross violation of our sovereignty.

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The Philippines is an archipelago of some 7,100 islands, oozing before with fishery and marine resources that were only found in our country. Our land resources are even richer with billions of mega-diversity living in the 17 million hectares of dipterocarp forest.

Don’t you know that in one ecosystem alone, i.e., 5,000-hectares. Mt. Kitanglad, the number of flora and fauna is far greater in number compared to those found in one-billion hectares in North America? But that was before we have lost our forest ecosystem to the unscrupulous powerful loggers who have massively and illegally logged the finest of trees in the world by forming a strong cabal of vested interest.

Indeed, we have lost our marine life, our megadiversity and our minerals through open-pit mining to the detriment of our ecological people, i.e., the fishing communities, the peasantry, the Indigenous Peoples, as our country has supplied the timber-needs, the mineral-needs, the consumerist needs of the people in advanced countries following an extractive economy.

Are you still wondering why there is so much poverty in a blessed land oozing with ecological resources?

Well, the final death blow to our fishery and marine life will happen if we allow open-pit mining as already banned by then Secretary Gina Lopez during her term.

As legally defined, open-pit mining is “an open-cast or open cut mining and in larger context mega-mining, a surface mining technique of extracting rock or minerals from the earth from an open air-pit known as borrow.”

Knowing that alone will already give us a concrete picture on the massive destruction of our mountains, which were once the forest ecosystem in an archipelago oozing with marine life. Subjecting these denuded mountains to open-pit mining means no way can we regain back our ecological integrity.

Thus, after the massive devastation and exploitation of the wealth above the ground, i.e., dipterocarp forests, agricultural lands through conventional agriculture, which is massively using toxic chemicals in the 200,000-hectare plantations in Mindanao that have already polluted the watersheds, the focus now is how to extract ecological wealth under the ground, i.e., gold, ores, minerals, etc. through open-pit mining. For what? To supply the mineral needs of the people in advanced and powerful countries.

In 2015, as presiding officer of “Task Force Kinaiyahan” in pursuance of the “Writ of Kalikasan” issued by the Court of Appeals in 2013 to stop illegal logging and illegal mining operation in Northern Mindanao, we were so aghast during our operation against illegal mining in the uplands of Cagayan de Oro to see in the campsite of illegal miners, AK-47, Armalites and grenades.

The law enforcers, the core group of Task Force Kinaiyahan, who were with us, arrested three Chinese citizens who were tourist-visa holders, doing open-pit mining operations in the uplands of Cagayan de Oro.

It was a shock to us to know that those benefitting from our minerals through open-pit mining are not the Filipinos but Chinese. Where are these captured Chinese now? Well, we were told that they were just detained for a week. They were released a week after, allowed to go back to China and escorted by an elected official!


If we allow the continuing exploitation of our natural resources at a time when our country has already lost its ecological integrity and security, perhaps there is truth to the saying that the Philippines is indeed “a nation of coward people!”

Orlando Ravanera is former chairman of the Cooperative Development Authority. After his retirement, he spends more time on his environmental advocacies and in his work for the indigenous people in northern Mindanao. All views and opinions express here are his own and do not reflect the views and opinions of LiCAS News.

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