Shave the environmentBy Conrado Banal
Philippine Daily Inquirer
Now it is all up to our leader, Benigno Simeon (aka BS).
Recently, 28 tribal leaders in Palawan wrote to our leader, BS, to complain against ABS-CBN Foundation, which they said was headed by Gina Lopez, the high-profile anti-mining advocate in Palawan who is also a member of the rich Lopez clan, which, in turn, is into power distribution and generation, telecommunications, media and real estate.
The tribal leaders accused ABS-CBN Foundation of occupying what they called “sacred ancestral land” at the immaculate Sabsaban Falls in the first-class municipality of Brooke’s Point at the southern tip of the main island.
It seems the tribal leaders were angered by the clandestine operations of the foundation, when it cut down trees in the area, only to use those trees to build its offices in the area, plus hotel, restaurant and function areas.
In short, it cleared the area to construct what the leaders called a “resort.” They said the foundation did all those without the consent of the indigenous people of the area, which is against RA 8371, or the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act.
As it turned out, the National Commission on Indigenous People (NCIP) has ordered the suspension of operations at the ABS-CBN Foundation-operated “resort.”
Well, the NCIP suspended operations only “temporarily.”
The commission also asked the foundation to answer the accusation of the tribal leaders.
Before writing to our leader BS, the tribal leaders complained to the NCIP, saying that the foundation has been preventing the indigenous people from entering their own land to obtain their traditional herbal medicine and even to fetch their drinking water.
To top it all, the tribal leaders claimed the personnel of the foundation were charging the indigenous people for admission into the area.
Nobody can as yet say how long the NCIP investigation will take.
Question: Will the Palace lift a finger for the indigenous people of Brooke’s Point even against such an influential group as ABS-CBN Foundation that never shies away from using its ties with a national television network?
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As we all know, the ABS-CBN Foundation, the one headed by the anti-mining advocate Gina Lopez, has an existing MOA with the city government of Puerto Princesa in Palawan.
For the past three years, the city government paid the foundation—as a “media”-based foundation—millions upon millions of pesos supposedly for using the foundation’s resources from its mother company (i.e. media connection) to help the government in promoting the protection of the environment in Palawan.
For some people in business, it is thus hard not to think of the foundation as a huge PR group for the city government of Puerto Princesa—or whoever in the city LGU is behind the MOA.
Based on the MOA between the Puerto Princesa city government and the ABS-CBN Foundation, the Lopez-headed organization was supposed to stand guard against abuses toward the environment in Palawan.
Such is farthest from the reality in the province, if we are to believe the complaints filed by the tribal leaders regarding the foundation’s “project at the Sabsaban Falls, as attested by other citizens of Barangay Aribungos, Ipilan, Mambalot, Maasin and Barong-barong in the letters to both the NCIP and our leader BS.
The foundation already responded to the adverse reports in media, insisting that the “project” at Brooke’s Point was intended to save the environment, not to mention its effort to establish interaction with indigenous people in the area. The foundation just needed to shave the forest a little bit by cutting down trees.
The truth is that the foundation could not deny that the “project” would have to make money. The official name of the project is “Bantay Kalikasan’s Eco-Academy.” Here is a sample of its money-making promotional materials: charges for “overnight camping” are only from P488 to P888 per person. Also available for a fee are day camping, tables and bathrooms.
To top it all, the foundation offers event organizing and catering for social affairs like weddings, birthdays and reunions—all high foot-traffic activities, meaning, they are noisy and crowded.
Let us not even mention the tons of garbage that such parties normally generate. No wonder, the indigenous people are so desperate that they have to run all the way to our leader BS for help.
The tribal leaders thus begged our leader BS: “Mahal na Pangulo, hindi po namin pinapayagan si Ginang Gina Lopez sa pagtayo ng resort dito dahil nanganganib kami na ang aming kultura at kaugalian ay mawawala na sanhi ng pagpasok ng mga dayuhan. (Our dear President, we have not allowed Ms. Gina Lopez to construct a resort here because we are afraid that our culture and way of life would be lost due to the entry of outsiders).”
The leaders asked our leader, BS, to prosecute those responsible for violating their rights as indigenous people.
Let us see.
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The P3.6-billion newly opened Mall of Asia (MOA) Arena had a smash hit in its recent inaugural show, the Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way Ball” concert tour, with a crowd of more than 40,000 for two nights last week.
From what I gathered, the show was originally scheduled for a single night but it had to be extended due to the high demand for tickets.
It was actually the second show of recording artist Lady Gaga in the Philippines. She also performed here sometime in 2009.
I heard that the modern MOA Arena is already booked for events until the first quarter of 2013, featuring its capability to beam events held in it to any SM cinema in the country.
The venue—all six-levels of it, a state-of-the-art sports and multi-event complex with a gross floor area of 64,085 square meters, with sitting capacity of up to 20,000 persons—even boasts of function rooms for press conferences and Wi-Fi for Internet users.
Here is the good news to the guys down here in my barangay: The facility will become one of the new venues for the games of the UAAP [University Athletic Association of the Philippines] and the NCAA [National Collegiate Athletic Association]. There, our parking problem during the collegiate basketball season is solved.
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