|This poster is commonly seen in Poblacion, Kiamba Sarangani Province. The concern citizens of Kiamba are really pushing the NO TO MINING IN KIAMBA advocacy.|
Mining in the Philippines is a very controversial issue. This issue is debated among the pro and anti-mining group. The Pro mining group suggests that mining have many benefits such as generating employment & has good contribution to GDP of the Philippine economy. On the other hand, the Anti-mining group protested that mining destroys the environment, unsustainable and violates the rights of Indigenous People. As they declared - big or small scale mining has the same adverse impact not only to the environment but also in social and economic aspects.
Last year, I conducted a research about small-scale mining in SOCCSKSARGEN area. I went to places such as Tampakan in South Cotabato and Kiamba in Sarangani Province. As part of the requirements of my Master’s Degree in Sustainable Development and curiosity, I did the study in search for the truth.
As my research goes, I saw an interesting post of Carol in Facebook. Her posts consist of pleading to save and protect the rainforest of Kiamba and the abolishment of mining activities in the area. So I took the initiative to introduce myself to her (thru online) and asked her help for my research.
Though I don’t meet her personally, Carol is a woman who is willing to risk everything for the environment. I really admire her courage to speak up and fight for what’s right. It is important to have the side of Carol – because we all wanted to have a balance perspective on this issue. As a student of Sustainable Development, it is important to know all sides and weigh what’s important and beneficial for everyone.
In an interview, Carol Villanueva Peralta shares her thoughts about it and explains why saving and protecting the environment is a must for all of us.
Can you please share a little bit of yourself?
I would like to be known simply as a Kiamban who cares deeply for the environment; especially where peoples' lives, safety and livelihoods can be compromised if degraded. I believe that sustainable development can only be achieved through the protection and preservation of our natural resources.
Can you please give me a little background of Kiamba Natives?
Kiamba Natives (KN) is a group of Kiambans who have been born in Kiamba, lived in Kiamba, went to school in Kiamba or whose roots came from Kiamba. It is a mix of Kiambans with different political affiliations, belonging to different religious denominations and diverse cultural ethnicity.
Why Kiamba Natives?
For me being a native means coming from an organic origin - Kiamba. It does not connote ethnicity but was coined to refer to all people who consider Kiamba a part of their lives and call it a home.
What’s the motivation to form this kind of group?
I was only on Facebook early last year but the group has been in existence for some time. A group of Kiambans probably thought using the social media to connect with one another was a great idea, so an FB page Kiamba Natives was created. Kiamba has produced a lot of professionals and now all over the world and the page has been a fabulous way to connect.
When did you start making efforts to awaken the people in protecting and saving the environment of Kiamba?
The last time I was in Kiamba was in 2004 and was not updated of anything happening in Kiamba since. About June in 2013, I became very curious about hush hush postings on KN - Roads being built going to the mountains which I thought were not farm to market roads; news of rampant cutting of trees and all other stuff about degradation of the environment.
To me these were alarming. Kiamba is endowed with a natural beauty I have not seen elsewhere: springs, beautiful white sand beaches, corrals and verdant mountains. All the while, I thought government officials in Kiamba were protecting the environment but I was shocked one day to find a post about the SB voting to allow mining in some barangays. We did some research and were shocked to find out that there are applications for mining in almost one third of the municipality. There is news that the SB passed a new land use plan which we hope does not classify the lands as a mineral reserve area.
Since then, Kiambans became bolder in supporting the advocacy with the Diocese of Marbel issuing its support.
What can you say about the (illegal) small-scale mining of Kiamba?
I am for no to mining in Kiamba, small or large scale. There are a lot of reasons why.
Kiamba is prone to landslides and floods as declared by no less than the Mines and Geological Sciences Bureau (MGB) and protecting the lives of the people is the primary role of government.
The forests of Kiamba are critical watersheds and mining laws expressly prohibit mining in mossy forests.
Mt. Busa of Kiamba is an Important Bird Area where nearly extinct species can be found;
Tuka is a home to protected sea turtles and Bangud Reef is a protected Area
Majority of the people depend on fishing and agriculture for livelihood. These have sustained them for generations. Mining is non-sustainable and destroys the goose that lays the golden eggs - the environment. There is scarcely a mining company that can employ over 2,000 employees. That is a fact. What will happen to the fisherfolk and farmers?
Revenue from mining is very minimal. Eco-tourism holds the more promise in terms of revenue and livelihood.
There is very little benefit mining will provide for the people. No one has ever dared answer this question. The best they came to was presenting clinics, computers and schools. Everything we need we have without mining.
There was no consultation done with the community or a properly free prior informed consent obtained from the Indigenous People. Their hunting grounds will be disturbed, burial ground desecrated and they will be driven out of their lands. The social impact will be enormous to only to benefit a few, which Commissioner Reed call pure greed.
Who benefits? Why destroy the environment?
When you were in Kiamba, are you that aggressive in voicing out your advocacy?
It’s probably a blessing in disguise I came to know about this while I was in the U.S. If I were in Kiamba, I will be organizing people and encouraging them to speak up. They cannot massacre a whole town.
How far will you go to save and protect the environment?
A life lived without any purpose has no meaning. When you find your passion, there is no letting go. Now I understand patriots and heroes.
What are the challenges that you have encountered in propagating your advocacy?
I believe everything has to go through a process. People have to find guts to overcome fear. People have to be educated and have to find meaning in what they will do to support the advocacy. The greatest challenge and irony probably is to find an ally in government.
Have you received threats while doing your advocacy?
I reserve my comments in this aspect. I want people to know that with numbers, there is safety. Safety in advocacy work is a priority. Very true and people are scared to speak up because of the alleged participation of big names. Kiamba can become like Diwalwal or Compostela if nothing is done.
Small-scale mining in Kiamba is very controversial issue there. Some people say that “big names” are protecting or they are into this kind of business. What can you say about them?
All I can say is that they know who they are. This is a sad reality in the Philippines. Society has allowed other people to be untouchables or above the law. This should change. While there are no commercial tree plantations in Kiamba, logs are nevertheless cut and loaded in boats and/or transported to General Santos. Though apprehended by police authorities, these logs are released and certified commercial grade. It is really a sad fact.
This is why this advocacy is really important. We not only encourage people to preserve the environment but also for them to become change agents. People have to find courage. To those who use their power to enrich themselves without regard for the suffering their action bear on the people, remember that life is short and you need not deprive the coming generations with what is rightfully theirs. Live a simple life.
posted in Facebook:
AN OPEN LETTER TO THE CENRO OF KIAMBA SARANGANI
We would like to welcome you to our home, the land of our birth, the beautiful Kiamba. I presume you are not born in Kiamba and never knew how it was growing up in an almost paradise, hence, allow us to call you a visitor.
There are things we want to be clear about. You are there as a government servant to serve the people and look after the protection and preservation of the environment which we have been blessed to have all these years, long before you came to Kiamba. We expect no less than the protection of that environment, not the protection of the interest of a few.
You have started right by holding a dialogue with concerned sectors. We expect that these dialogues must not only continue but must also be transparent and prior notice be given with the minutes of the proceedings be furnished all the stakeholders, including this writer.
Please be aware that the people are aware that there are no commercial tree plantations in the area, hence, the transport of logs either by boat or trucks will be seen as coming from the very forests which has protected our watershed, lives and livelihoods of our people all these years. People see and they know the very sources of these logs being transported. If there is anyone among your ranks who have and who will produce documents to make false declarations in order for these logs to be transported, we expect you to weed them out now. Do not become a part of deception, the worst being deception of one's self.
As a servant of the people, we expect you to be the people's champion and protect their rights to their safety, livelihood and a healthy and balanced ecology. These are our constitutional rights. The MGB has declared Kiamba as prone to floods and landslides and we expect you not to only keep the trees for the future generations but to reforest what has been harvested by God knows who. Making the environment safe for the people is your first priority not enriching the greedy.
We expect you to keep only the best of your men, not those who appear to be like morons (with due respect) but who don't know what they are talking about. Examples are those who argue that men will go naked without mining. You never saw anyone naked in Kiamba, right? Then, fire your men who argue that mining in Kiamba is necessary for people to live. The world has been fine without mining in Kiamba and it will be fine forever if mining is not done in Kiamba. In your heart you know the truth, especially if the truth is destroying the source of life to cater to the whims of a few. Truth is, water and air is the most essential to life, more than our need for minerals. How about reminding your men about this? Will gold and silver, car, cell phones, etc. be a necessity to a sick and dying man?
Another type of people who purport to e appearing like morons are those who argue that impoverished men should not be sitting in gold. These are the worst. Why? Because they know that it's not the people who will benefit from any gold mined in Kiamba. Do not be one of them. Show them the statistics on the prevalence of poverty in areas where mining operate and you will be convinced that mining is not the answer to poverty and is not sustainable.
For your information, Kiamba has produced world class professionals and they exactly know when your men talk like morons. No one has sold mining to anyone with acceptable facts and figures, much less present the benefits mining will provide for our people. We expect you to be transparent in your official dealings, no more no less.
We need an explanation how mining companies were able to get approval for exploration without first consulting the people if mining is what they really want for Kiamba, Was the social acceptability of the project determined? Were people consulted? We have been seeking for answers and still in search for answers.
We also need statistics on why government money was spent on roads that lead to the mountains. What percentage of the population will really benefit to justify such expenditures?
Your administration will be under scrutiny and we will not take things sitting down now that social media has become a tool for good governance. We will take our grievance to the highest office and the people if the need arises.
We expect you to be the best CENRO Kiamba ever had by being a champion for the people. We had enough. Be the catalyst for change. Do not become a puppet and I know you know what I mean.
Leave Kiamba better than you found it. Maybe the people will come to consider you their own and you will leave a lasting legacy your children will be proud of.
This is a challenge. Live up to it and level up.
By Carol Villanueva Peralta
Save Kiamba Rainforest Worlwide Movement
you may also read her CNN I-Report article:
Save Kiamba's Rainforest, No To Mining in Kiamba
you may also read her CNN I-Report article:
Save Kiamba's Rainforest, No To Mining in Kiamba
Leave a comment below and let me know what you think.