November 24, 2017, 5:19 pm
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When Iskolars are not too scholarly

A FEW days back a friend from UP alerted me to a Facebook post by Kaisa UP, one of three (or is it four?) student political parties that annually vie for control of the UP Student Council.

In its statement Kaisa was decrying the move to have the Mineral Production Sharing Agreement (MPSA) of Hinatuan Mining Corporation over Manicani Island in Guiuan, Eastern Samar renewed. This move began when the four barangays on Manicani Island conducted public consultations of their residents, and when over 85% voted to endorse the renewal the barangays issued the proper resolutions containing this sentiment.

The barangays were followed by the Sangguniang Bayan of Guiuan, the municipality of which Manicani is part. Voting 5-2 the SB endorses the renewal, citing the clamor of the people on the island. Finally, last month, the Sangguniang Panlalawigan of Eastern Samar did the same.

With the three LGU units positively endorsing the renewal of the MPSA of Hinatuan Mining, the ball shifts to the court of the MGB and the DENR, which has final say over the renewal process.

Hence the Kaisa post, asking for volunteers to join a three-day rally outside the DENR in opposition to the renewal.

The problem with the Kaisa post is that it contained numerous “false (or fake) news” about mining in general and mining in Manicani in particular. It falsely claimed that Hinatuan has been mining on the island for 25 years when actually the mining operation has been suspended since 2002 or for 15 years now. It falsely claimed that mining will “reduce the island to smithereens” when nickel mining is merely surface mining that affects only some 20 to 30 meters of the surface of the area being mined, in this case maybe not even 1% of the island’s land mass.

The post says “despite the protest of the people of Manicani...” which seems to imply again, falsely — that majority are opposed when in fact at best only 15% of the residents are. Then it goes on to talk about half of the world’s population being poor and the people being deprived of a healthy environment - when in fact the environment in Metro Manila is far less healthy than the environment in most areas of responsible mining operations!

When I replied to the post to decry the false/fake news, I was attacked as “bayaran” and pilloried for my corporate links. Clearly, to many activists, anyone who holds on to an opposing opinion has to be “bayaran” or motivated simply by his paycheck. All the virtues are on their side, all the wrong values are on the other.

Iskolars ng Bayan - what some fellow UP peeps love to call themselves — can at times be far from scholarly, especially when blinded by their ideological reasoning. And when a “scholar of the people” thinks and acts in a manner far from scholarly then one wonders whether the people’s’ money is being properly spent.

No wonder the MGB itself, through a special task force created in 2003 by then DENR secretary Heherson Alvarez to conduct an inquiry on the very same issues being raised today about Manicani, cautioned that there were individuals and groups (including members of the clergy) who are simply close-minded when it comes to be issue of mining that no reasoning or scientific or other proof to the contrary will ever get them to change their minds.

So they will continue to mouth slogans about the poor and the people and injustice. And many who know no better will believe.

Even if it is in fact the people themselves who are seeking justice and a better life through the adoption of Responsible mining operations on their very own island!
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