April 21, 2008. One of our first public activities in the University Student Council (USC) was a unity candle-lighting event almost two weeks ago with member organizations of the League of Youth For the Environment (LYFE) in UP Diliman and some representatives from other schools. The event was part of a commemoration for the celebration of Earth Day, the day after. Hundreds of candles, formed to spell out “Save Our Home” were lit up at the Sunken Garden just after the sun set. A short program was held with speakers from various organizations all calling out for a united campaign to protect the environment, as a struggle inseparable from the various campaigns for social change.
August 26, 2007. The morning of the second day of the KASAMA sa UP assembly was spent with some indigenous peoples’ rights advocates in one of Benguet province’s open pit gold mines.
It took three packed jeepneys almost an hour to transport all of us delegates to Itogon, Benguet from Baguio City. The open pit mine is operated by one of the oldest and most infamous mining corporations in the Philippines, Benguet Corporation, set up by occupying Americans more than a century ago.
You know, it’s really disturbing how we’ve all been lead to believe that mining will help our economy and our people, but all they’ve done for the past century is to plunder our mineral riches out of the country. Of course, to sugarcoat and compensate for these companies’ exploitation of the local’s resources, destruction of its ecology and the plundering of its riches, they build schools, a few houses and roads which in reality only serve as support infrastructure for further plunder, reinforce status quo and make the people dependent on foreign aid, foreign goods and foreign intervention.
We were told that despite the relatively recent enactment of laws that protect and promote the rights of indigenous peoples in the Philippines, it serves little use to the people of Itogon because of Benguet Corporation’s insistence on their immunity due to their incorporation in 1903.
We hiked around the area for more than an hour. When we reached a certain height to view the open pit mine itself, we were told that what we hiked was not really a mountain but a heap of mine debris from all the gold extraction. The open pit mine itself was an attractive scene artificially masking a story of a century of exploitation and ecological destruction.
Most of us in the Philippines have probably heard of the Guimaras oil spill from the news. For a small island whose people’s livelihood relies much on the sea, this catastrophe is really devastating. And it will get worse. Much of the 2 MILLION liters of oil still lie within the sunken ship.
I was searching and bloghopping for news and other information on how to help, and I came across Project Sunshine Sunrise. The website appears to have been set up by the provincial government of Guimaras to disseminate information regarding the disaster and how people can help.
Unfortunately (for a student like me), much of the help they need apparently consist of financial donations and logistical help. So, what to do? Talk about it and blog about it. The more people know, the less it will be sidelined. I also read somewhere that a hair salon chain would be donating hair to the clean-up effort.
Yes, I’ve heard of this before, human hair being effective material for oil slick absorption. Well, I think it’s time for me to get a haircut. This, aside from boycotting Petron to give them a lesson for murdering the livelihood of our Guimaras folk.