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“A country, even with a strong army, is not secured at all without ecological security.” This statement was pronounced by no less than the former Secretary of National Defense, Sec. Orlando Mercado in the late ’90s to signify his full support when we were taking direct actions through human barricade against illegal logging as some 50 ten-wheeler logging trucks were bringing down illegally-cut logs every night during those years when six logging companies were plundering our dipterocarp forest.
Yes, the ingredients of ecological disaster were already existing minus the rains after five decades of plunder that earned the loggers tremendous rakings, boasting to one and all that no one can stop them, not even an office that has been mandated to enforce environmental laws, bragging that 90% in that office were under their payroll. Well, it was indeed Res Ipsa Loquitor (the thing speaks for itself) because the dipterocarp forest then that the loggers were plundering should have not been the subject of logging for reason that these were protected areas, lying more than one thousand meters above sea level and in slopes whose gradients were more than 50% where logging was prohibited. Too, there were laws that disallowed the cutting of hard wood i.e., Almacega, Red Lauan, Narra, Mahogany, but all of these were cut without mercy.
How powerful were the loggers then! Isn’t it that in this country no one is above the law, that all must bow down to the majesty of the law because we follow the rule of law and not of men? That statement was just rhetorical as far as the mighty loggers were concerned then. They could not moderate their greed. Some have even become congressmen, mayors or governors using their massive rakings to buy votes. Moneyed as they were then, they were able to form a strong cabal of vested interest. No one was prosecuted. No one was penalized. It was so easy for the illegal loggers then to file cases against us every time we took direct actions to stop them.
Ten years of human barricades against illegal logging from 1991 to 2000 saw us being harassed, arrested and even accused of 200 million damage suit by Vicmar Corporation. When we seized 5 logging trucks carrying illegally cut logs owned by a military officer named 2nd Lieutenant Modesto Eleazar, we were hunted by his goons. An M2K2 hand grenade had been thrown to us barricaders at dawn but miraculously did not explode. After deep prayers, we thanked God for the protection as we firmly believe that if God is with us, who can be against us?
What was so amazing was the act of a 65-year old colleague, a Fisherman leader from Agusan, Cagayan de Oro, Mr. Antonio Salcedo, who was then dying of bone cancer and 5 days later, he would die. In his hospital bed, he asked the doctor to release him so that he could join us. When asked why, he whispered to the doctor: “Doctor, I know am dying and soon I will die. What if God will ask me, what have I done to protect His creation. Protecting God’s vanishing creation is the highest form of worship.”
That statement that “protecting God’s vanishing creation is the highest form of worship,” became our battle cry, without fear in facing the armed goons of the loggers, with our firm belief that we will end up in God’s loving embrace when we are killed protecting the mega-diversity which the loggers were killing without let-up, the greatest massacre of all time.
On January 10, 2018, some 5,000 people will be gathering at Atrium, LimKetKai to hold the People’s Environment Summit. The message of Typhoon Vinta last Dec. 22, 2017 is a strong warning: heal the blighted land back to life or we will all perish. It was a reminder of what happened on Dec. 17. 2011 when Typhoon Sendong killed some 3,000 people and rendering 11,000 families homeless.
The ingredients of disaster are now present, just waiting for the rains that will cause so much havoc to life and properties in 200-hectare water basin Cagayan de Oro. Every one-inch of rainfall in the 200 thousand hectares Kalatungan Range will be translated to one meter high flood. God forbids! Ten inches of rains means 10 meters high of floodings in the city.
Let notice be served to one and all that the people of Cagayan de Oro have awakened: they will not allow anymore that a life be sacrificed because One Sendong is Enough. JOIN US.