[Blueboard] A Statement from Fr. Provincial

Hilda Kapauan Abola hilda at admu.edu.ph
Wed May 22 09:50:30 PHT 2002

Fr. Romeo J. Intengan, S.J. has requested that the following document be
sent out to the Ateneo community. It is a statement written by him about the
ongoing confirmation hearings of DENR Secretary Heherson Alvarez. He feels
that the confirmation of Sec. Alvarez will be important both for the welfare
of the environment, and for the interests of good governance.
  Other articles about the DENR controversy have been compiled at the AAA
website at http://www.atenista.net/alumni/denr.html. We hope that you will
take the time to read this statement and the other articles about this very
important issue.
  Please direct any suggestions and feedback to the Philippine Province of
the Society of Jesus at <sjphilprov at vasia.com>.
  Thank you very much.

20 May 2002
by Romeo J. Intengan, S.J.

This article has seven parts:
1.    Introduction (situating people empowerment and good governance within
the framework of Christian faith, and relating the ongoing struggle over the
confirmation of DENR Secretary Heherson T. Alvarez to this context)
2.    Three Main Issues that Are Holding Up Secretary Alvarez¹s Confirmation
3.    Urgent Need for Our Intervention, High Stakes in This Struggle
4.    The Case of Former EMB Director Peter Abaya
5.    The Diwalwal Mining Dispute
6.    The Controversy over DAO 17
7.    Final Words

A basic and central objective of our Christian faith is the economic,
political, and cultural empowerment of the people, especially the poor and
arbitrarily disadvantaged, so that they may have real opportunities for
benefiting from a standard of living worthy of their dignity as human
beings. This objective flows from the teaching and example of Jesus Christ,
who is God the Son become man, in fulfillment of the conjoint will of the
Divine Trinity, so that all of us may have life, and life in abundance (John
10:10). A Christian should therefore be strongly committed to and supportive
of authentic people empowerment.
  Good governance is another basic and central concern of Christian faith.
Whether or not the great powers of the state will benefit or harm the
people, especially the poor, will very much depend on the quality of
governance. Good governance is needed to lift our country from mass
destitution and set it on the road of authentic progress. Christians have
the obligation to perseveringly work for good governance, so that all our
people may be enabled to live the lives of frugal and sustainable comfort
that will allow them to more easily pursue spiritual goods.
  At present there is going on a very clear and dramatic test case for
people empowerment and good governance. This is the struggle for the
confirmation of Heherson "Sonny" T. Alvarez as Secretary of the Department
of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).
  Sec. Alvarez has undertaken many measures that redound to the empowerment
of our people, especially the poor, either by protecting the global
environment or the natural resources of our country, or by directly giving
the poor and disadvantaged access to the proportionate use of our natural
resources in order that they may earn a decent livelihood. His decisions are
in pursuit of good governance through honest, competent, and efficient
public service by the personnel of the DENR.
  Unfortunately for our people, and especially for the poor, his
confirmation is being obstructed by advocates of powerful interest groups
who want to protect or enlarge their access to a disproportionately large
share of the economic fruits of our environment and natural resources. To
attain their aims, some of these groups have protected and even championed
those guilty of bad governance and misconduct in public office. These
powerful interest groups are very influential with the congressmen in the
Commission of Appointments.

Three Main Issues that Are Holding Up Secretary Alvarez¹s Confirmation
At this point let me concisely describe what Secretary Alvarez has done to
empower our people and promote good governance. Let me also tell you why his
confirmation is being opposed, either from misinformation, or worse, because
of a shortsighted defense of narrow economic and political interests,
unmindful of the social costs and the potential for fueling social
resentments and stoking the fires of violent revolution. Having acquired
this information, you may be encouraged to take concrete steps to support
Sec. Alvarez¹s confirmation, and you may personally remonstrate with those
who oppose his confirmation.
  In his earnest efforts to carry out his official duty of protecting the
environment and natural resources of our nation, and making the benefits of
the sustainable use of our natural resources proportionately available also
to the poor and disadvantaged, Sec. Alvarez has met strongest opposition on
three issues.
First, Sec. Alvarez has chosen to wage administrative and political struggle
against one of his influential subordinates‹former Environmental Management
Bureau Director Peter Abaya‹whom he caught abusing his official position by
increasing the importation of ozone-depleting substances (ODS) that are
cancer-causing and grossly harmful to the environment.
Second, in his handling of the conflict between big mining firms and small
miners in the Diwalwal area of Monkayo, Compostela Valley, Sec. Alvarez has
upheld social justice by striving for a solution that will allow the
thousands of small miners to retain their modest livelihood, while
instituting measures to rectify mining methods harmful to the environment.
Third, on 13 June 2001, Sec. Alvarez issued Department Administrative Order
No. 2001­17 (DAO 17). This measure, awaited for three long years by marginal
municipal fisherfolk, laid down the system of delineating the 15-kilometer
boundary of municipal waters. It applied the archipelagic principle, thus
enlarging the areas reserved to marginal fisherfolk and protected from
ecologically destructive commercial fishing.
    Even at this point it is evident that the case for Sec. Alvarez¹s
confirmation as a good public servant, zealous for people empowerment and
good governance, is crystal clear. A public official like him, concerned for
the social peace that is the fruit of social justice, vigilant in the
defense and rehabilitation of the environment, while respectful of the legal
rights and legitimate concerns of big industrialists for profits, deserves
to be commended and confirmed. One wishes there were more public officials
like him.

Urgent Need for Our Intervention, High Stakes in This Struggle
There is urgency in this matter. Time is of the essence, because the
hearings of the Commission on Appointments for the confirmation of Sec.
Alvarez are going on. Those who do not want him confirmed are aiming to have
him bypassed once more so as to discourage President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo
from reappointing him in spite of his commendable record as DENR Secretary.
To do this they are introducing into the hearings a large number of
oppositors whose charges are both baseless and repetitious.
  Much is at stake in this struggle. Shall the cause of the common good and
of people empowerment be seen as having a real chance of being promoted by
the government, or will it become increasingly evident that only the wealthy
are heard and protected by the organs of the government, and that the poor
have to fend for themselves in an adverse social environment in which they
are already heavily disadvantaged?
  It is for this reason that in spite of my very heavy workload as a major
superior of a religious order, I have taken time and exerted much effort
intervening in this situation. It is for this reason that I appeal to you to
intervene in the ways that you can, thus promoting the common good of our
people and a bright future for our country, by economically empowering and
improving the livelihood of many of our poor and by helping those government
officials who are promoting good governance in the very difficult
circumstances of our political system.
  Perhaps you can in turn appeal to or remonstrate with your congressman or
with some senator or other politically influential people you know, so that
they may stop opposing the confirmation of Sec. Alvarez of the DENR, or
better yet, so that they may support his confirmation as best as they can.
Perhaps you may succeed in making those congressmen and senators opposed to
Sen. Alvarez¹s confirmation that knowingly or unknowingly, willy nilly, by
abetting social injustice and aggravating mass poverty, they are the most
effective recruiters for the continuing armed rebellions besetting our
country, and the worst subverters of the social peace and progress that men
and women of good will who love humanity and our country aspire for.
  Perhaps you may advance the cause of people empowerment and good
governance in this case, by other means at your disposal, such as spreading
information about this test case and getting citizen¹s groups to act in
favor of the confirmation of DENR Secretary Heherson Alvarez.
  For those who wish to know more about the unnecessary controversy
surrounding his confirmation, I have provided below more information about
the three main issues that have pitted powerful vested interest groups
against DENR Sec. Alvarez¹s confirmation.

The Case of Former EMB Director Peter Abaya
The case of former EMB Director Peter Abaya has been the most publicized of
the disputes holding back the confirmation of Sec. Heherson "Sonny" Alvarez.
Unwilling to accept offers of compromise that will harm good governance and
the common good, Sec. Alvarez has continued to resist the compromise plan
proposed by some Congressmen to appoint Peter Abaya as one of the DENR
Assistant Secretaries while some prominent position is being identified for
him in some other government agency. Sec. Alvarez also has refused to drop
the administrative charge against the former EMB Director for violation of
DENR Administrative Order 2000­18, known as the Chemical Control Order (CCO)
for Ozone-Depleting Substances (ODS). This administrative order is pursuant
to the provisions of RA 6969 (Toxic Substances, Hazardous and Nuclear Waste
Control Act of 1990) and of Philippine Senate Resolution No. 25 of 1993,
ratifying the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer.
  In 2000, Abaya had furtively inserted what is now known as "Footnote 3"
into the CCO, allowing a 75 percent increase in the importation of ODS over
the 1996 baseline data, equivalent to an amount of 1,330.43 metric tons of
ODS over and above the year 2000 target. This is tantamount to exposing the
Filipino people to increased risk of cancer, and the people of the world to
the harm caused by the ozone layer that protects life forms on Earth from
harmful radiation entering the atmosphere from space.
The congressman-father of former EMB Director Peter Abaya has taken the case
to his Southern Tagalog colleagues in the House. The signals that were sent
were that for Sec. Alvarez to be confirmed, he must be willing to make a
deal rather than file charges against erring officials. This is most
certainly uncalled for and unacceptable. By such interference, congressmen
are undermining good governance by trying to prevent a government executive
from exacting basic discipline from his personnel.

The Diwalwal Mining Dispute
Since the early 1980s the Diwalwal area of Compostela Valley has been a
flashpoint of social, legal, and economic conflicts between small- and
medium-scale miners and large industrial mining interests, particularly
Marcopper Mining Corporation, initially, and eventually, Southeast Mindanao
Gold Mining Corporation (SEM), headed by Mr. Teodoro Bernardino.
  It was the small miners who first discovered gold in the Diwalwal area,
which is part of the 1,927,400-hectare Davao­Agusan­Surigao Forest Reserve.
Because of their lack of familiarity with the law and the government
bureaucracy, in 1983 they applied for and obtained the wrong measure‹a
Declaration of Location (DoL) for six mining claims covering some 486
  The Marcopper Mining Corporation, being more familiar with the law and
bureaucracy in relation to mining, applied for and obtained the technically
correct measures‹in 1984 and 1985, a Prospecting Permit (PP) for 4,941
hectares within the Davao­Agusan­Surigao Forest Reserve, and in 1986, an
Exploration Permit (EP). Since then Marcopper filed a series of legal suits
to disqualify other mining operators and asserting its claim to prospect
for, explore, and eventually mine these 4,941 hectares.
  In 1991 DENR Administrative Order No. 66 was issued segregating the
729-hectare Diwalwal area from the forest reserve, for small-scale mining
  In 1994 Marcopper transferred its Exploration Permit to SEM.
  In 1998 Provincial Mining Regulatory Board (PMRB) of Compostela Valley
declared the Diwalwal area as a People¹s Small-Scale Mining Area pursuant to
RA 7076 (People¹s Small Mining Act of 1991). Small-scale mining permits were
then issued to independent miners.
  SEM contested the legality of this declaration of the PMRB of Compostela
Valley. In March 2002 the Court of Appeals decided in favor of SEM,
nullifying the declaration of Diwalwal as a People¹s Small-Scale Mining
Area. SEM moved for and obtained a Cease and Desist Order from the Mayor of
Monkayo against the small miners, who number some 18,000. The latter depend
on mining for gold in the Diwalwal area for their livelihood.
  Aware of the obvious potential for grave socio-economic dislocation and
for political radicalization and extremism among the displaced small-scale
miners, Sec. Alvarez has stopped short of directing DENR to issue its own
Cease and Desist Order to the small mining operators in the area. He is
trying to find a "win­win" solution so that all the contending parties may
get a proportionate share of the benefits from mining the area, while the
environment is protected from further damage and is rehabilitated, in a
situation not of increasingly violent social conflict, but of social
cooperation, harmony, and peace.
  This has displeased the owners of SEM, who are influential with some
Mindanao congressmen. The latter are among the most vocal oppositors to the
confirmation of Sec. Alvarez.
  The initial stance of SEM has been monopolistic and exclusionary, a
foolhardy stance considering the socially volatile situation in the Diwalwal
area. Sec. Alvarez has reached out to the owners of SEM, who are already
very wealthy. He is trying to convince them to share the resources of the
area with the small-scale miners, whose modest livelihood is at stake here,
while for the owners of SEM what is at stake is a second or a third fortune.
  To summarize, in his handling of the conflict between a big mining company
and small-scale miners in Diwalwal, Sec. Alvarez has upheld social justice
and the health of the natural environment. He has done this by striving for
a solution that will allow the thousands of small miners to retain their
modest livelihood, while respecting the legally acquired rights of SEM, and
instituting measures to correct mining methods harmful to the environment.
  For this, Sec. Alvarez deserves not to be harassed and opposed, but rather
to be commended and confirmed as DENR Secretary.

The Controversy over DAO 17
On 13 June 2001 Sec. Alvarez issued Department Administrative Order No.
2001­17 (DAO 17), implementing Section 4 (58) of Republic Act 8550 (also
known as "Fisheries Code of 1998"). This measure, awaited for three long
years by marginal fisherfolk, laid down the system of delineating the
boundary of municipal waters, basically set at 15 kilometers from the shore.
It applied the "archipelagic principle," consistent with Article I of the
Constitution of the Philippines, delineating the boundaries as 15 kilometers
not only from the shore of the mainland but also of outlying islands.
  DAO 17 therefore enlarged the area designated as municipal waters and
hence off limits to commercial fishing firms. It also provided clear and
rational criteria for resolving potential disputes about the boundaries
between the waters of adjacent municipalities. In so doing, DAO 17 strongly
promoted two objectives that favor the common good of the nation.
Firstly, larger areas of our waters are now capable of recovering from the
ongoing ecological and economic disaster caused by overexploitation by
commercial fishing firms, and can begin to once more provide a sustainable
livelihood to 1.3 millions marginal fisherfolk and the 7 million people that
they support, as well truly promoting food security for the nation.
Secondly, the time, resources and energy of Local Government Units that
would have been spent in pursuing disputes over sea boundaries can now be
focused on development.
    It is therefore no wonder that DAO 17 has received the enthusiastic
support of mayors and other public officials of municipalities and cities.
They know that the implementation DAO 17 will help provide a sustainable
livelihood for very many of their people, as well as increase the income of
their municipalities and cities, thus providing more money for other aspects
of development. They are acutely aware that the shallow nearshore municipal
waters are rich in fisheries resources but very sensitive to
overexploitation. Only simple and passive fishing gear, such as that used by
marginal municipal fisherfolk, which are not highly exploitative, should be
used to avoid overexploiting municipal waters. The overexploitation and
degradation of the nearshore fishing grounds is due to the relentless
encroachment of commercial fishers, with their highly exploitative fishing
gear, into municipal waters. Thus a two-hour operation of a commercial
fishing vessel in municipal waters is equivalent to a marginal municipal
fisherman¹s six-month harvest, thus impoverishing the fisherfolk.
  Commercial fishing magnates and their spokespersons in Congress do raise
some apparently weighty issues against DAO 17. For example, they claim that
DAO 17 will adversely affect the nation¹s food security. They also allege
that DAO 17 will ruin commercial fishing and related processing industries,
thus causing massive unemployment. On further examination, these claims are
seen to be evidently untrue.
  In fact, DAO 17 will improve the nation¹s food security. While production
from commercial fishing would fall (only temporarily since commercial
fishers could start fishing in deeper waters with new technology), the yield
for municipal fishing would certainly rise, especially in the medium and
long run. The recovery of municipal waters from the ecologically devastating
intensive techniques commercial fishing would mean increased yields for the
more than one million marginal municipal fisherfolk and better lives for the
more than seven million persons that they support. Even commercial fishing
would eventually have greater yields, since some commercial species of fish
caught in deep waters breed in shallower municipal waters.
  DAO 17 will not ruin commercial fishing and related processing industries.
Instead it will save the marginal municipal fisherfolk from starvation
brought about by the unfair and ecologically destructive competition from
commercial fishers in their municipal waters. If only commercial fishers
were to be honest and really enterprising, DAO 17 could stimulate them to
higher productivity and profits. Why? Because RA 8550 (the Philippine
Fisheries Code of 1998) and its implementing regulations (including DAO 17)
provides for opportunities for financing for commercial fishers, so that
they may upgrade their technology to world standards, and thus have
cost-effective technology that will enable them to maintain employment and
increase production by utilizing new and farther fishing grounds, such as
the vast 200-mile Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of the Philippines. Sources
of this financing include the Department of Agriculture and the Asian
Development Bank. Is it only because some commercial fishing magnates are
lazy, obtuse, or heartless that they prefer to overexploit municipal waters
and eventually starve millions of people depending on marginal municipal
fishing, rather than launch new, more productive, ecologically sustainable,
and socially beneficial industrial ventures in deeper waters, for which
financing is readily available?
  Moreover, even if temporarily there would be many lay-offs from the
commercial fishing industry, this does not translate to unemployment because
the commercial fishworkers are also marginal municipal fisherfolk. They will
simply shift livelihood from the minimum wages they get as fishworkers, to
an increasingly viable livelihood as municipal fisherfolk with the augmented
catch from ecologically recovering municipal waters protected by DAO 17.
  Some well-meaning observers, including some DENR personnel, in order to
mitigate opposition to Sec. Alvarez¹s confirmation arising from DAO 17, have
proposed a compromise. They have presented the idea of postponing the
implementation of DAO 17 for five years. To Sec. Alvarez this could be a
tempting proposal. However, the common good does not allow this. Experts in
Philippine marine ecology warn that any further substantial postponement of
the implementation of DAO 17 would result in the irreversibility of the
accelerating ecological degradation of our municipal waters. Should such
irreversibility of degradation occur, the country shall have suffered a
major ecological, economic, and social debacle.
  It is therefore a source of wonder why some congressmen still oppose DAO
17 and obstruct Sec. Alvarez¹s confirmation. After all, DAO 17 promotes the
social peace that comes with authentic progress and development that is
shared by all stakeholders.

Final Words
I am at present the Provincial Superior of the Philippine Province of the
Society of Jesus. By itself, the internal governance of the Jesuit
Philippine Province‹its men, their communities, the apostolic institutions
and projects that they operate or are engaged in‹already impose on me a very
heavy workload. I therefore do not relish taking on more work, especially in
the controversial areas of public administration and politics. However, as a
Catholic Christian, I am convinced that God is Lord of all, not only of our
private lives, but also of our societal activities‹our local, regional,
national, global, and cosmic economics, politics, and culture. I am
convinced that Christian faith entails commitment to the struggle for people
empowerment and good governance, so that we may all have life, and life in
abundance here on earth, as a foretaste of the unending fullness of life in
God¹s Kingdom in the life of the world to come.
  I believe that the struggle for DENR Sec. Heherson Alvarez¹s confirmation
is one clear and dramatic ongoing test case for people empowerment and good
governance. Could you please lend your help to this good cause? Could you
please help him, and other good public officials, protect and rehabilitate
our environment? Could you please help him, and public servants like him,
assist small miners, marginal municipal fisherfolk, and other poor and
marginalized earn a decent livelihood from even a modest share of a
sustainable yield from the bounty of our land and seas? Could we all strive
to serve God and his Christ better and more authentically through serving
our country, especially in our poor and marginalized people, by promoting
people empowerment and good governance?

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