There is a threat to Romblon today far more dangerous than the Ebola or avian flu viruses stalking the globe. The threat is far more lethal, more immediate, than that posed by terrorism which Washington and other western capitals are so pre-occupied with and paranoid about.
This threat comes not from just one bin Laden, but from many bin Ladens masquerading as elected politicians, some as businessmen, from my home province of Romblon. They possess enormous clout, have insatiable greed, and have no sympathy or sense of history at all. They are scheming Romblomanons, idiots and all, but they are humans—and alive.
I said this because they stake their credibility on money (and many poor Romblomanons need it!) which these Romblon-brand of bin Ladens have plenty of. Their language is business and their business is mining:
“This mine is mine.”
Reports circulating in the chat rooms of the Internet say that one-half to almost three-fourths of Sibuyan is now exposed to mining. Mining, the source of the country’s seven percent GNP growth in the first quarter of 2007 which Gloria Macapagal Arroyo was so boastful of, is now in Sibuyan. It is here to stay, regardless of what you or this blogger will say.
Most of the news that circulate border on gossip, but I am sure that somewhere out there in the chat room exchanges lie the truth, but which has to be mined (pun intended) for one to be able to make a complete sense of what’s happening.
And what is it that’s happening in Sibuyan?
The latest act of idiocy that transpired was the approval of the application of a certain Rommel Ibuna (is he from Dos Hermanas?) for a permit to explore minerals in 1,620 hectares of Sibuyan land.
In the Asi language, the nearest word I can think of as the equivalent of “explore” is hakar and it means to rend asunder.
In Sibale, when a butcher slaughters a boar or pig and he has cleaned up its skin, the next that he does is make a large knife incision across the belly of the animal and, with the use of his bare and bloodied hands, hakar the stomach and feel what’s inside, turning it out.
The mining companies, in conspiracy with the above-described environment butchers, will now hakar the intestines of Sibuyan without so much word as to what lies inside the belly of our beautiful island. Do you know?
The intestines of a slaughtered boar or pig, once out, nahakar, can no longer be restored, or returned, to its original state. When Sibuyan is finally laid to waste, stripped of its forests, and its land sucked dry, the miners will most likely be gone salivating with their hoard, while we are left to deal with our own sorrows and, I am sure, with our unchanged dire and pitiful economic condition.
I am not a seer, but I read books. I know what happened in the ore mines of Russia, the gold and coal mines of US, the coal mines of China, and the diamond mines of Africa. Mining communities in these countries were boom towns when the belly of the earth still gurgled out plenty of minerals but once exhausted, the boom towns became dead and arid lands; their people looking like empty-handed ghosts.
In mining, prosperity and plenty come first, but following, not far behind the skirt of those who benefit, is depravation and death. This is logical. Nature is not unlimited; its resources not infinite.
Are we going to let that happen? Shall we be another Diwalwal, where small miners throw grenades at each other inside the tunnels for the survival of the fittest? Shall we be another Baguio where, because of the gold mines’ operations, the earth’s foundation has become soft that the water sources of the pine city had dried up?
No amount of pontification and political rationalization will wash in the face of the numerous documented stories about the ill-effects of mining to almost all facets of humanity—to the environment, to people’s health and well-being, to the global climate, to economic and political stability. Shall I go on?
Iraq has been cannibalized for its oil. In Northeast and Central Asia, Iran, as well as the former USSR satellite states in the coat of the Caspian and Black Seas, are being lined up for the West’s next diplomatic and military adventures, not for democracy’s sake, but for natural gas.
Here in the Philippines, Sibuyan is being singled out for its rich flora and fauna, apart from the alleged rich mineral deposits that abound in the island. The illiterates among the politicians and businessmen who are moving heaven and earth—as well as bulldozers and other heavy machines—to hakar the belly of Sibuyan, fell for the picturesque brochures of the mining companies that life would be better if our ore, silver, and gold are churned into trinkets and cash. They don’t speak about dry riverbeds, or treeless swamps, or eroded watersheds. They don’t care about the miners’ starvation wage (which is what they pay). They don’t worry even about the air and water pollution that makes asthmatic children of otherwise vigorous constitution. Well, they will not also speak of the moral pollution to which some of our politicians were the very first to succumb to due to their narrow and distorted sense of right and wrong.
Their greed, of course, is sugar-coated and blunted by sleek public relations—and wads of cash in the pockets of the corrupt. In their brochures, they speak only of the good life that mining will bestow to Sibuyan, the roads and bridges, basketball courts and roadside sheds, retail malls, social mobility, and all that chuvah-eklaboosh, as my eldest daughter Lara, in the language of her generation, describes anything unbelievable and undeliverable.
Long ago, I wrote that if you cut a tree, a fish will die. In Sibuyan, the expropriation language of the moneyed, the influential, and the political classes that now sponsor mining and the rape of Sibuyan, rules out anything that has to do with this environmental equation. Theirs is the language of profit, of unmitigated greed, and of corruption that stinks to high heavens, suffocating even the gods and the spirits of our ancestors.
This is their ballad: “This mine is mine.”