Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Save Palawan

This was my column on the date indicated above. This post is antedated.

I receive quite a number E-ails requesting for publication of materials, press releases, column feeds, and pictures on this or that cause or event that it is almost impossible to read them all. But some of these I do read, particularly if they come from a reliable source. It is very rare that I publish open letters written by other people, but I am making an exception in this particular case for two reasons.

First, I think everybody must rage against the murder of Gerry Ortega. The circumstances around his death are just too incomprehensible. He was supposedly shot in the head by hired killers who were made to believe he was a child molester.

Second, the cause the good doctor espoused, which is now being picked up by thousands of Filipinos, was a worthy cause.

Palawan is known as the last frontier in this country. Anyone who has been to Palawan can attest to the awesome beauty of the place. In fact, Palawan’s underground river is still in the running to become one of the seven wonders of nature. It would be almost sacrilege to ruin it, which is what some businessmen are trying to do with the proposal to allow mining in the province.

Gina Lopez, who has made it her lifelong passion and mission to save and protect the environment has written an open letter appealing to Filipinos to help save Palawan by saying no to the proposal to allow mining in the island. Here is the letter:

“On January 24 a very dear friend and colleague Gerry Ortega was shot in the head dead. I was just with him that weekend - and a few minutes before he died what we were discussing over the phone was an anti-mining campaign in Palawan - given that on December two huge mining applications were railroaded - and they were to be near protected sites.

Gerry is dead but we will not let go of his dreams - and mine – and probably yours, too.

Palawan has 17 key biodiversity sites - which means it is part of the 70 percent biodiversity sites which are essential for sustaining life in the planet. It has two world heritage sites, eight protected sites. Yet if you see Palawan on the map you will note that it is a very thin island - which is 82 percent mountain. It means that if the forest gets denuded and the minerals excavated - the tailings seep directly into the sea affecting the coral reefs. The top soil is thin - and the island ecosystem is fragile.

Mining is not the way to go for Palawan. I have five ecotourism sites wherein the communities involved can now send their children to school, can dream bigger dreams. Mayor Hagedorn in Puerto Princesa has banned mining and logging - and focused on tourism and agriculture. From two flights a week, Puerto Princesa now boasts 10 flights a day. His revenues have gone up from several million to several billion.

Mining as an economic path in a magnificent “Last Frontier” is based on a paradigm of economic growth that is myopic and archaic. In this age of climate change and global warming any economic development that does not recognize and revere the web of life should be thrown in the dustbin.

Please, please support the ten million signature campaign to Stop Mining in Palawan. The richness of Palawan is the wealth and pride of the country, it is the wealth of the world. Log in to www.no2mininginpalawan.com. Register your vote and please, please send it to thousands others. You can also include your household by downloading the form printing it - and faxing it to 4152227 or you can scan it and send it to signatures@no2mininginpalawan.com. Questions can be sent to signatures@no2mininginpalawan.com.

This is for our country, this is for the future.”

I hope everyone can pitch in and be part of the effort to stop mining in Palawan. I concede that mining does have its benefits, but it would be foolhardy to allow it in an island that remains our best showcase of the wonders of nature.

***

In addition to requests of this nature, I have also been receiving quite an unusual number of scam e-mails. I am alarmed of the proliferation of these e-mails because I have been informed that these continue to victimize quite a number of people. These are e-mails that replicate the so-called Nigerian 419 scam.

What is amazing is that the current versions of the scam have become even more creative and particularly devious. The situations presented are no longer limited to the usual stories of millions of dollars of war bounties or unclaimed inheritance festering in a vault somewhere needing beneficiaries. Why, just this week I received notification that I have won a Yahoo United Kingdom lottery (the attachment, which was in PDF file even contained the official yahoo logo). Of course the amounts involved in these scams should be reason enough to automatically make one suspicious, particularly since the schemes being proposed and the participation being solicited is patently illegal and unethical.

Those among us who are familiar with the scam probably won’t fall for the various schemes and ploys being presented. But I am told that the scam continues to proliferate because many people still fall for it. Apparently, there are just too many people in this world who are either gullible enough or greedy enough to become willing accomplices to nefarious schemes to defraud governments, the Central Intelligence Agency or the Federal Bureau of Investigation, or a series of banks.

It’s easy to judge other people for being gullible and for being stupid enough to fall for these scams. A study that I came across noted that most of the victims of these scams are those who are new to the Internet, mostly senior people. I think we should all do our part in making sure our friends and relatives know how these scams operate and warn them about falling victim to these.


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