Friday, July 6, 2012

On what is ours

(An edited version of this essay was published in Manila Standard Today on July 6, 2012.)

What is mine is what I own, that is what is ours is what we own. Making what we own theirs without our cognizance and permission is stealing.

Making what I own, which I did not acquire nor asked for, ours is collective ownership. It is the recognition of the responsibility of my peers to my possession - to protect me and what I own from possible harm by some others who do not belong to our circle though may intrude and declare that they are also responsible to what we now own through collective ownership. The fact that they do not belong to the circle and are alien to us, their ownership is not inherent. We may permit them to take responsibility with the aim of advancing our status, however, if taking such responsibility for their own utility by taking what we own from us is an absolute harassment.

What is ours is what we call heritage. This is how what I own becomes ours. Hence, what we own depends on how we own it and we, as owners, see to it that it is being utilized for our own benefit to live in the present and prepare for the future without defecting our interdependence on each other, including the dependence of what we own as regards its continuous existence in defense from utilization through exploitation by aliens.

Heritage is of the past which continues to exist in the present to be preserved responsibly for the future. It is what we own and it owns us. It owns us because we depend our livelihood on it, that it produces what we need to exist.

Making what is ours theirs for the sake of development is noble but if part of it would be salvaged and taken away from us is disagreeable. Sustainable development, a kind which gives balance to all, living and non-living to progress in harmony and co-existing interdependently, should be offered instead.

It is environmental heritage that I ought to point out. Environment is the highest form of heritage we have for the one who has given this kind of inheritance is inherently unknowable, hence the length of being of it being ours is unknowable, eternal. This, for us as heirs, is inherent inheritance.

I say this as one of the heirs of an ice-age island geographically located at the center of the Philippine archipelago. Though some may disagree with me, this is my own perspective and I would be glad if others may share mine - this might become a collective ideal.

The issue at hand is mining. What a word to play with, but the word is quite controversial and it needs a deep but careful understanding and scrutiny. Generally speaking, mining is tantamount to exploitation—land exploitation in this case. Yet, no matter how we put some other technical and obscure meanings on it, still the meaning remains the same. The root-word of the term is 'mine', the verb is 'to mine', and the act of it is 'mining'. What is being produced after the process is the 'mined', whatever it is. Words are interconnected and meanings are related. Hence the act of mining is not only to exploit the land to get the minerals, but also 'mining' what was 'mined' -- or owning it. So what is ours is being 'mined' to become theirs. In the process, to become what is ours to be theirs, that is mining what is ours, they equate it monetarily, either momentarily or permanently. For a time, to exploit and take some away; or for all time, to exploit and take away all what could be taken out in so far as they claim it and take the monetary equation, they have given in exchange, a thousand fold.

To consider mining as avenue for development and poverty alleviation to a third-world country excited to progress is far from reality and could be considered as a myth. First-world countries such as the United States of America , China and Japan commenced their journey to development and progress, primarily, through agriculture, a historical fact. Thus, considering mining as alternative for development is a wrong notion, at least here in the Philippines.  If we say 'alternative', we should choose what is better, safer and sustainable.

There are more issues to be considered and resolved as consequences of the mining industry. Some would be patrimony, environmental degradation, and social division, among others. 'Mining' could be a source of greed and selfishness, of hate and apathy. Promises for economic stability and development are temporary. May I quote Dr. Ernesto Gonzales', former Director of of the University of Santo Tomas - Social Research Center, comment during the Bishops-Businessmen's Conference General Assembly on the issue of mining: "Instead of creating wealth, mining industry in the Philippines has created poverty."

Now, the Philippines opened her doors to foreigners to mine our minerals. It is now what I call mining what is ours and making it theirs. I think it is now also the time to open our eyes to this reality. Gradually, our land are being exploited—the land our ancestors tilled and cared for for centuries; the land our heroes defended and martyrs fought for. And in the name of development and economic progress, the Philippines is now an open country—for foreigners and some Filipino greedy capitalists selling our lands and minerals. For whose benefit? For them and for the chosen few. They gain, we lose.

Treasure under our feet? Yes, indeed, but not to be exploited for our land is not for mining (at least in island ecosystems such as ours). Our minerals are treasures of the very soil that make our plants grow to satisfy our hunger eaten and waters flow to quench our thirst.

What is mine and making it theirs is unacceptable.

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