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Monday, May 27, 2024

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When Nature Strikes Back!

I was all in shock, really shocked when I saw the sea wall and reclamation from brgy. Mambajao to Abgao, I told myself, “Be that as it may, especially for poor Maasinhon fishermen. “But upon seeing the destruction, I knew that when nature strikes back, man is always left helpless in his wanton disregard of nature’s dignity.
Nature gives us food, shelter, moments of leisure and pleasure and all the good things in life. Yet what does man do to nature, with his own nothingness and helplessness without natured itself? Man strikes back with his own ingratitude. He destroys nature and all the elements that it gives for free, for man to live.
Man gleans the reef for free for fish, shellfish, crustaceans, and countless more. Again, for FREE! Yet what does our city do to Maasinhons especially the poor? They collect taxes from natural resources the city is not supposed to own. They pass ordinances to authorize taxation on poor reef gleaners (manginhasay). These are poor people the city does not even help in finding their food for daily sustenance. The city has not provided them with livelihood programs for their families. What clear and visible programs the city had embarked to help poor farmers?
Recently, 11 subsistence fishermen were arrested by the city’s abusive Bantay Dagat personnel, in cahoots with equally abusive maritime policemen, who charged them penalties of P11,000 (?) but later reduced to P5,600. A compromise was reportedly reached between the parties, and that the penalties of P5,600 would be refunded. The official receipts issued for the penalties were allegedly taken back by the arresting officers, apparently conscious of legal ramifications against them. But the compromise refund never happened until now, according to our source.
That seawall, road and reclamation from Mambajao to Abgao had been issued a Cease and Desist Order (CDO) by the Philippine Reclamation Authority (PRA) but it was ignored and blatantly defied, until its recent revocation or lifting by the same PRA. Phase II of the project did not even have any budget allocation from the national government, yet it was pushed through and construction works continued, until Typhoon Odette. The billboard for the project clearly disclosed that for its SOURCE OF FUND, NO AMOUNT WAS STATED.
The seawall’s destruction was highly improbable, but its being divided into several pieces only shows mortal people that we are quite helpless when nature strikes back. There are even portions of the seawall being turned upside down from the bottom to the top. With the seawall’s destruction, Art and I had breathed sentiments of triumph. Typhoon Odette has vindicated us environmentalists and nature lovers.
On the other hand, the reclamation in barangay Combado, which was then disguised as “causeway” and which the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) of DENR Manila estimated to be two (2) hectares has left what looks like a sandbar on its eastern portion. The filling materials are thinning and now scattered in the coastal area. Thus, the destruction of the marine ecosystem and biodiversity is widening and threatening Maasin City’s coastal, natural food resource.
Many grandparents had shed tears of loss for their beloved honasan where they and their children and grandchildren used to wade, bathe, play, glean the reef and catch fish for pleasure and leisure. I then fondly remember the late Dr. Jesus Bacala who immortalized its value with the words: “Kun taob mangahoy, kun honas manginhas…” Dr. Bacala had his Bacala Scholarship in Saint Joseph College for deserving students.
Nature is generous to us, as it has always been. But when man reaches the limits of his ingratitude, nature strikes back with unimaginable devastation.

By Joe Mancera

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