17 September 2018

How callous, unthinking and unfeeling Rodrigo Duterte is for doing nothing but only badmouthing priests in Benguet in response to the landslide that took the lives of at least 43 small-scale miners with up to 30 still missing.

From the August monsoon rains to Typhoon Ompong, we have zero visibility of Duterte and the promise of proactive disaster risk reduction. That this is the only frank soundbite we get from the wannabe strongman shows how weak this administration is against the worsening impacts of natural hazards and climate change.

Benguet has long been prone to landslides and sinkholes because of the vast, unrehabilitated tunnels and open pits of large-scale mines. Benguet Corporation’s old open pit mine in fact figured in a 50,000 metric-ton tailings leak just last 2016. Its unrehabilitated mine tunnel was also the site of a sinkhole that swallowed a three-storey house in 2016.

In Metro Manila, we saw last month how the degradation of upstream watersheds by quarrying and real estate projects, the cement and steel sprawl eating into green spaces across the entire catch basin, and the clogged estuaries and coasts all resulted into a flood nightmare that lasted for more than a week. With Ompong, the same flooding occurred for the nth time again.

These are disaster risk factors that can and should have been addressed by an inter-agency effort even long before the onset of our typhoon seasons. DENR should protect watersheds, green spaces, and coastal greenbelts. The Duterte government should prohibit and hold accountable destructive large-scale mining projects.

Perhaps the ploy to start up another word war with the Church aims to hide these acts of criminal neglect? Is Duterte going to blame Trillanes and Jose Maria Sison next? We need actions, not foul words, Mr. President.#