The League of Filipino Students (LFS) stands side-by-side with the people of Mindanao in their collective call to oust Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) Secretary Dinky Soliman for intentionally withholding relief goods; the rejection of military presence and participation in giving out relief and helping out in rehabilitation; and the junking of EO 79 and other related orders which are the culprits behind massive denudation and abuse of natural resources.
The clamor for government help in relief and rehabilitation escalates almost three months after the devastating tragedy that cost lives in Mindanao due to Typhoon Pablo. With another typhoon in Mindanao, particularly in areas hard-hit by Typhoon Pablo and Sendong, the LFS challenges the Aquino administration to administer genuine and service-oriented relief operations in the area.
“Immediate relief must be given to the people. Soliman should grant the 100,000 sacks of rice due to the victims or risk facing stronger claims for ouster from people fed up with her incompetence,” says LFS Secretary General Mai Uichanco, reminding the DSWD secretary of the 5,000 victims who barricaded a highway in Compostela Valley because of sluggish distribution of relief goods in their community.
Endangered by storms and soldiers
Beyond natural disasters aggravated by huge corporate greed, the greatest dangers threatening the people of Mindanao are extrajudicial and political killings, trumped up criminal charges, and other forms of human rights violations enacted by the government to protect interests of mining and logging operators. At least 6 military battalions and 2 infantry brigades, explicitly named Investment Security Forces (ISF), are deployed as escorts of these corporations in the CARAGA region alone.
“The cases of violations speak for themselves; Aquino is insincere to the plight of the people, especially those in Mindanao,” remarks Uichanco.
The culture of impunity that comes with Aquino’s promise to protect foreign and large-scale investments in the country is pervasive. This also sheds light on the criminal charges placed upon the leaders of the aforementioned 5,000-strong barricade last month which also called for the cancellation of various corporate logging and foreign mining permits.
“The barricades along Compostela Valley were well-warranted given the neglect to give the locals the necessary relief. The people’s call for 100, 000 sacks of rice and continuous rehabilitation and relief over the course of the next 6 months must be met,” asserts Uichanco.
End the claiming of lives by the EO 79
Yet to hold the Aquino government responsible in providing immediate relief is only one side of the coin. The other side is for the people to claim a long-term solution and social justice.
“The care for Mindanao which Pres. Aquino projects does not translate to real and actual service given to the people of Mindanao—especially those in most need,” deplores Uichanco.
According to the youth leader, the ‘battle between man versus nature’ was intensified primarily by Aquino’s Executive Order 79, which legitimized massive mining and logging in the provinces of Davao and Compostela Valley. According to data gathered by Mindanao-based environmental organization Panalipdan, there are already a total of 31 mining tenements, application, and operations in Davao Oriental alone, with another 43 in Compostela Valley.
“Let us not wait for another Pablo to happen. We demand the immediate junking of EO 79, and thus eliminate the hazard to the lives of our countrymen in Mindanao,” concludes Uichanco. ###