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THE SENATE HEARING ON SAMAR RAINFOREST AND A REQUEST TO OUTSTANDING U.P. ALUMNI: ENRILE AND DEFENSOR

By CESAR TORRES and CHARO NABONG CABARDO
December 8, 2005

To Honorable Enrile and Defensor, please ask your chulalays to visit this hyperlink: http://poetry.rotten.com/past/ormoc/. They might like what they see and print the pictures for you. I don’t know if President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, Ph.D. from the U.P. also, would be interested in visiting the website.

Harking to the words of Jose Rizal – you must have heard of him Honorable Senator Enrile and Secretary Defensor – in November 5, 1991 the flash flood that struck Ormoc City and Burauen in Leyte, killed approximately 8,000 people.  Some 50,000 were rendered homeless.

In 1989, logging was banned in Samar, Leyte’s adjacent island where some people have moved to Leyte, thereby Samarizing Leyte. The ban was the result of a typhoon that unleashed floods that washed away entire villages and killed more than 100 Samarnons.

In December 23, 2003 the Philippine Government declared a state of calamity in Southern Leyte after weekend floods and landslides killed up to 209 people. Leyteños, Samarnons, and other kind Filipinos donated to a fund raising initiated by Mr. Osserman Caceres, Leyte Association President of the Leyteños of Northern California, and Filipino lawyer Rene Pascual and San Francisco Consul General at that time, Delia Meñez Rosal.

In November 2004, in the wake of four killer typhoons that devastated Quezon, Aurora and Nueva Ecija, leaving 1,300 dead and nearly half a million people homeless, the Filipinos in America, and we in the San Francisco Bay Area in California were almost ballistic in soliciting donations in kind and money to help the victims of that calamity.  I am wondering if these two outstanding UP alumni, the Honorable Senator Enrile and His Eminence, Secretary Defensor, contributed to the fund raising to help the victims of the killer typhoons and the landslides.

Anyway, enough of this recitation of the morbid events associated with the cutting down of the trees in Leyte, in Samar, Luzon, and other parts of the Philippines.

We are sharing with you an email from Charo Nabong-Cabardo who attended the hearing conducted by a humble but caring official of the Philippines, Senator Jamby Madrigal, in the Senate.

Charo was invited to that hearing.  A word on Charo. She is also a UP alumnae.  But she is not as honorable, outstanding, and as powerful as Messrs Enrile and Defensor. But Charo almost lost her life for Pilipinas.  After that episode, she tried coping with the demands of life bereft of the power that the two UP outstanding alumni, Enrile and Defensor, have at their fingertips.  She was succeeding. But Samar beckoned.  So she went back to that island and its poor people.  As Executive Director of Tandaya Foundation, Charo and her team has done a lot of studies on Samar and its rainforest and the environment.  One of her works is entitled "Saving Samar's Last Rain Forests:  A Primer".  This came out in 1995 with Tandaya Foundation as the publisher.

Below is Charo’s letter to the world, sent through us.

Cesar 

 
-----Original Message-----

From: charo cabardo cncabardo@gmail.com
To: Cesar1185@aol.com
Sent: Tue, 29 Nov 2005 15:47:27 -0800

Dear Cesar,

Yesterday, we attended the Senate Committee Hearing on the Lifting of the Logging Moratorium in Samar island called by Senator Jamby Madrigal. Other senators present were Senator Aquilino Pimentel, Senator Lim, Senator Serge Osmeña. The Samar group was composed of Bishop Angel Hobayan, Fr. Agustin "Boy" Opalalic, Fr. Mike, ex Gov Lutgardo Barbo, and me representing the NGOs. Others present were Atty. Ron Gutierez (our legal counsel), Fr. Robert Reyes (the running priest), Prof. Blas Tabaranza (of Haribon), Atty. Porblador, lawyer of San Jose Timber Corp and regional executive director of DENR. Notably absent were Mike Defensor and other high-ranking officials of DENR. Senator Jamby Madrigal opened the hearing recalling that yesterday was the anniversary of the disaster in Aurora and Quezon and asked Bishop Hobayan to say a prayer for those who perished.

Bishop Hobayan presented the effects of logging in Northern Samar and mining in Eastern Samar and Fr. Boy read the Joint Statement of the Samar Leyte Prelates and Clergy on the Logging Moratorium. Fr. Boy ended his reading of the statement saying that we must be given a chance to settle this matter legally. Ex Gov Barbo presented his stand on "Samar Forest and the Enrile-Defensor Backscatching Tandem" (see annexed article on this which appeared in today's Inquirer). I presented a powerpoint presentation on the history of logging in Samar island and its significance to the people of Samar. The maps presented especially the progressive denudation of the forests of Samar island drew a dramatic reaction especially from the senators. (The senate, reporters, my colleagues all asked for copies).

Our presentations opened up the issue of mining which Senator Osmeña said is even more destructive than logging and directed the Samar group to submit all data, statements regarding this issue as well especially the two mining firms that were given permit by DENR to mine the heartland of Samar.

If one were to look at the map of Samar - you will see the remaining forests declared as a protected area. Yet, you will also see that mining companies were given permits to mine the area. And top of this, logging has again been allowed by DENR to resume in Samar. And the heart of the matter is that the area of contention are where our remaining old growth forests are, where logging and mining are absolutely prohibited even under existing rules and regulations of DENR.

Fr. Robert Reyes called for the withdrawal of the confirmation of Mike Defensor as the DENR Secretary for his ignorance and incompetence. Atty. Ron Gutierrez contested the order lifting the logging moratorium saying that it did not even go through the process of consultations with the people of Samar island. And to this day, the DENR has not yet served notice to any of the stakeholders in Samar and has not yet replied to the requests of the Bishops for copies of the documents.

Atty. Poblador, questioned the Senator committee (Committee on Cultural Minorities) when it was supposed to investigate only the displacement of the Manobos in Northern Samar and the way the hearing was going on, it already expanded its probe to the destructive effects of logging and mining in the whole Samar island. He was chided by the Senators who said, they have all the authority to expand the investigation. He was actually chided many times and was restrained from rebutting every statement that was not "good to his ears".

Senator Lim pinned RED Sibbaluca for his personal sentiment of the issue. Sen. Lim asked him "Do you concur with the decision of Sec. Defensor, given the strong opposition from Samarenos?". Sibbaluca could not answer categorically. All if he could say was 'If done properly, SJTC can be allowed to log". I think Senator Osmeña, Pimentel and Lim were piqued at his answer "If done properly", which we all know does not happen.

There were many exciting exchanges and the next hearings would be more exciting.

Senator Jamby Madrigal remarked at the end of the hearing as she directed the attendance of Sec. Defensor and other high-ranking officials in the next hearing. This Defensor is too powerful, next to God. He controls the air we breathe, the water we drink, the places we live.

Cesar, I learned yesterday that Fr. Boy Opalalic is leaving for the US and we are on the same flight pa on Dec. 12. I suggested to him that we can hold a forum in San Francisco on the issue. He will be in be in San Francisco on Jan. 5 and will leave the following day. Will you help us organize this forum so we can unite and we can present a more united Samareños not only in Samar island but across the world!

Please keep in touch.

Charo

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