(An edited version of this essay was published in Manila Standard Today on October 3, 2012.)
Nobel laureate and former United States vice president Al Gore when asked about the inaction of politicians on the present climate crisis, he answered back poignantly – political will is a renewable resource.
To my surprise, in another instance I have heard him suggesting that in a crisis wherein governments and businesses are unable to act, we should emulate the people power revolution of the Philippines.
People power? Where is it now? Gone were the days when we had to take up arms and kill people, and be killed, for our sovereignty as a nation. Gone were the days when we held our arms close to each other to trample down a dictator.
We are facing a bigger crisis. Economic fall-down? No, in the eyes of our present and former administration – a transcendent perspective of investment based on how we flaunt our country’s natural resources and sovereignty in a pompous and seductive way.
A self-crisis created by ourselves being puppets of the power shared to the supposed leaders and defenders of our inherent human and natural rights. A self-inflicted crisis, a disease brought about by apathy and blind obedience to the mutant power. And the only cure is to reclaim such power and make it again of the people, by the people, for the people.
Recent studies say that the Philippines is the most typhoon-vulnerable country in the world, second in economic risk for natural disasters and third most prone to hazards of climate change.
We have swum in floods, our relatives and friends buried in landslides, drowned in raging seas. From the bellies of Manila Bay tons of plastic wastes showing off how irresponsible we are and how the implementation of laws are inutile. Not counting the industrial wastes which are legally exported by overly consuming countries and accepted by us with open arms as if we are happy to be called a sovereign state of dumps.
We have not learned from the lessons of the past such as the Marinduque mine disaster, and now, the leak of water and sediment wastes from a mine in Padcal, Benguet. The mutant power behind the venerable flag of the country is bullying the very honorable statesmen to continuously flaunt our mineral resources almost to be given free to aliens, forcing to lastly give an environmental compliance license to the future biggest mine in Southeast Asia situated in South Cotabato, displacing indigenous peoples communities, thousands of trees to be cut, huge mine waste pits near an active volcano with thousands of hectares agricultural land downstream.
Gradually, the mutant power opened wide the gates of our gardens and farms to mutant agricultural species, or monsters – controlled by one or few transnational corporations. Unknowingly, in our veins flow unnatural modified nutrients which will result eventually to a mutation of our genes. Safe food mixed with genetically modified organisms, less rationality with more profits.
In this country where freedom of expression is recently suppressed, how can we reclaim the power we just lent to the leaders who now become mutants?
We put our hopes in the chosen few, as of now. There are still a handful trusted leaders in our society but are endangered, either by suppression or death.
Today, we commemorate the fifth anniversary of a man who sacrificed his life for his people, Armin Rios Marin. He was elected councilor for his staunch stand to defend the fragile ice-age island ecosystem of Sibuyan in the province of Romblon. As he joined the island’s defenders, they successfully kicked out the world’s largest nickel mining company. Though he only served for three months, he lived by his principles and public trust to the last breath of his life – we have given him the power and together with the community, nourished and made it a platform for selfless public service and payment for ecological services.
How many of our leaders now are willing to stand up selflessly for the general welfare, for a healthful and balanced ecology?
Yes, the biggest crisis we have now is ecological crisis and to solve this is to reclaim and exercise power we have as a people. This week, people who seek power are lining up asking us to lend our sovereign power to them.
They are pleading to borrow our natural power. We shall not allow them to abuse it; else our society shall become a dynasty of mutants.
The natural environment is the center of our life. It is where biodiversity gives life, clean water, clean air, food, medicine, shelter and clothing. It is where the non-living things serve as platform and balancing system for the whole life-cycle.
God-given, yes. And we should manage it responsibly with accountability. The real essence of sustainable development must be exercised.
Remember, mutants may be heroes on silver screen – but in public service, no way.