COTANGENT – By Daphne Cardillo
All these concerns about the environment—from protest actions against environmental destruction to advocacy for environmental protection and preservation to me are late reactions. Damage has been done.
During the mid-seventies when the construction of dams, industrial plants, and all other white-elephants started, there was a small voice of concerned citizens who warned of environmental hazards. But nobody listened. Instead, they were harassed, suppressed, silenced, or punished.
The cry for economic development was so singular and overwhelming that all other social concerns like pollution, dislocation, and environmental degradation were dismissed. However, the call for economic development was taking the narrow path of pure profit and generation of income and employment.
It was during this period that big business began to flourish; from logging, fishing, mining, and quarrying that were being conducted by both Filipinos and foreigners alike. As a consequence, it was during this period when our forests and seas began to be methodically and massively ravaged for profit.
For what our ever present kaingeros can slash and burn for decades and decades, it would take only a year or two for few logging companies to clear the same area of forest cover. For what our innumerable small fishermen can fish in their whole lifetime, it would take only a few years for big fishing to get the same amount of catch.
Side by side with this unceasing exploitation of our natural resources was the lack of laws for environmental protection and conservation. If there were environmental laws made however, either they were not followed or strictly implemented. There was this utter neglect for these unquantifiable consequences in the conduct of big business, e.g. manufacturing, like the simple concern of proper disposal of waste.
By mid-eighties, still the issue of environment vis a vis development hanged like an abstraction. There seemed to be an inversely proportional relationship between the two. Environmental concerns were overshadowed by economic considerations like income and employment. During a forum on “Environment and Development at the Leyte Industrial Estate,” representatives from LIDE downplayed the pollution problem. Ten years later, we hear reports of acid rain falling near the industrial estate area.
Now we are in the late nineties and we witness shaved heads, a jogging priest, printed shirts and cause-oriented groups all screaming for environmental protection. Irreparable damage had been done and the government has to make a stand.
Environmental concerns should not be lobbied only by interest groups as if nature can make a choice. I mean, floods, poisoned lakes, dried-up rivers, empty shores, pollution, extremes in weather and climate, and other ecological imbalance will only happen in places where people make a fuss. All of us are nestled on land and sea making up our environment, and before we become extinct as human specie we better secure our natural habitat.
We must respect nature for “whereas God always forgives and man sometimes forgives, nature never forgives—when one thwarts nature, nature rebukes, retaliates, strikes back.”