POSTSCRIPT / February 26, 2017 / Sunday


Opinion Columnist

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‘Alt-Edsa’ at Luneta to dwarf orig-Edsa?

WE WRITE this piece with one eye on early TV news and Twitter readouts on the EDSA/Luneta split commemoration of the 1986 People Power revolt that sent the dictator Ferdinand Marcos scampering to his terminal exile in Hawaii 31 years ago.

Will the “Alternative-EDSA31” event organized at the Luneta by followers of President Rodrigo Duterte and the Marcos camp draw a crowd bigger than the one on the very avenue where millions massed in a peaceful, prayerful uprising in 1986?

The numbers and photos are not yet in as we write this, but we expect the Duterte-Marcos extravaganza at the Luneta to dwarf whatever crowd will brave the EDSA traffic madness and show up at the People Power monument area near White Plains.

There are many factors going for a better attendance at the “Alt-EDSA31” at the Luneta:

• While the Marcoses may not be popular, Duterte still enjoys a huge following that can be tapped by his organizers experienced in reaching down to the barangay level.

• Mobilization can be expensive. But with the blurring of flexible rules against dipping into public coffers, officials can tap funds for semi-official use. In contrast, anti-Duterte groups rely on private contributors who have to worry about protecting their businesses.

• The Luneta throng is all fired up with Duterte as its idol, but the EDSA crowd is still looking for a rallying figure to galvanize it. We see none – not Sen. Leila de Lima whose own record of oppression as then justice secretary disqualifies her as a human rights champion.

• The variety of the open-ended program and the relaxed air at the Luneta make the capacious park more conducive to gathering like-minded individuals on a weekend.

While the annual People Power commemoration at EDSA (remember, it is called EDSA Revolt) has been taken generally as the official program, the Duterte administration’s scrimping on it and moving activities to the Luneta is an open break with the 31-year-old practice.

Malacañang’s clarifying that the concurrent Luneta event is not the EDSA celebration, but the people’s show of support for Duterte raises even more questions since this implies that all those flocking to the park support the President.

If anti-Duterte groups go to the Luneta to challenge the “show of force,” their mingling with the crowd may even add to the perceived size of the Duterte crowd. Genius!

A better-attended “Alt-EDSA31” at the Luneta has the effect of the annual EDSA commemoration being hijacked by the more numerous Duterte-Marcos forces!

Tribal folk appeal to Lopez on mines 

“HOW about us?” Thus pleaded a tribal leader to Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Gina Lopez for minorities adversely affected by the closing of some mines.

Datu Engwan Ala of Mamanwa, a tribe which has lived off the forests of Agusan del Norte, Surigao del Norte and Surigao del Sur, aired his appeal in Filipino in a meeting yesterday with media at Annabel’s resto on Morato Ave., Quezon City.

His home in Barangay Pantukan is on a mountaintop. Before the mining firms came, he had to go several kilometers down just to fetch water. He recalled that during his father’s time, the Mamanwas hunted wildlife and foraged for food in the forests. They bartered wood for the lowlanders’ salt.

Datu Engwan completed his high school education, thanks to the assistance of a mining firm in Carrascal. He has a stable job, and enough money for his children’s education and other needs.

When the DENR teams went to their place and asked about their situation, he told them that Mamanwas now fare better than before. He said the mines have given them a chance to dream of a life better than that of their elders.

Years ago, he said, having a bicycle was just a dream. How could they afford a bike just by bartering yantok (rattan) with lowlanders? Now, their kids go to school on bikes.

Ample food supplies now reach their village, he said, so they do not rely anymore on hunting. Since the mines opened in 2009, wildlife and trees have grown in abundance, as people no longer need to cut and slash for yantok anymore.

When they heard the news that the mines are to be closed, he and five other chieftains from the Manobo and Mamanwa tribes came down from the mountain and asked that they be heard.

He said about 5,000 Mamanwas fear that 200 of their kids who are scholars may not be able to enroll this coming semester, and about a thousand elementary and high school students might be dislocated.

We are relaying their concerns in this limited space, because we believe they should be heard before official policies on mining are adopted.

Actually, we see many valid arguments of Lopez for closing errant mines, especially those found overexploiting the earth without ensuring reasonable recompense to the ecosystem and the affected communities, and those not paying the right taxes.

There are figures showing that a huge portion of minerals extracted by mines is presumably smuggled out. Then the cost to the government for repairing the damage to nature and communities is several times bigger than the revenue earned from the mines.

We should go beyond merely restoring the balance in the ecosystem. We favor instituting a corrective imbalance in favor of Mother Nature. We need a Gina Lopez to do that.

(First published in the Philippine STAR of February 26, 2017)

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