FASTLANES: Rejoinder to Dr. Esteban Godilano’s reply

SUBIC BAY FREEPORT (MindaNews/07 January) —  I stand by my piece “Don’t cash in on Sendong please!”. I have also issued this rejoinder to the Aksyon Klima e-group where my column and Dr. Godilano’s reply were discussed.

Experts are asked about their pronouncements because they are presumed to know more than a layman in their field of expertise.

I viewed the Godilano interview on ANC’s World Tonight on Dec. 27, 2011 on the Pulangi river floods in Valencia reaching Cagayan de Oro not once but twice. I waited for its replay past midnight to really make sure if what I heard was right.

Immediately after viewing it the first time, I called the area manager of ABS-CBN for Northern Mindanao to point out the alarming and grossly inaccurate story. I also contacted some people in the news desk in Manila and was told they have investigated it and would henceforth be careful.

As they say, even the best have their off nights. But missing the drainage of one of the biggest river systems in the country, the Pulangi-Rio Grande de Mindanao River by one who claims expertise on geo-spatial watershed in times of real-time flood disaster is no laughing matter.

What could have been prudent at that time was not to make any comment because he was tentative on his facts. “If’s” are not acceptable in times of real-time disaster and when its victims are at the peak of their grief and trauma.

I have received numerous emails and text messages reacting to that column piece. I am sharing some of them here:

From Iso Montalvan of Bukidnon:

“I would like to applaud you on your article on Fastlanes. You are ABSOLUTELY CORRECT!

“Archbishop Ledesma and Myrna Siose know how much I am pushing on the very important need for every Filipino to know his geography so he may know which Rivers feed him and may at times threaten his life.  Unless the Filipino is aware of the watershed he belongs to and the dynamics it plays for his survival, we will not be able to achieve the cooperation we need from the masses.

“The misinformation given by that ‘authority’ is absolutely criminal and I laud you for picking up on this.

“My deepest respects …”

I believe this letter was also furnished to Myrna Sios-e of the office of Archbishop Antonio Ledesma.

From Vicky Segovia, Executive Director of the Partnership for Clean Air:

“BenCy. I know that you mean well always.  Yes, I share your disgust with people who cash in on opportunities without sensitivity to the situation of others. (Not necessarily referring to Steve since I do not know about what happened with him except on what I read both sides).  But I get what you mean, and I share your sentiments.

“Happy New Year!”

Dr. Godilano’s frustration is understandable. By his pronouncements, he did some warnings way back in 2009 after the floods of January that year. For all we know, while the CCCP’s and Godilano’s assistance is welcome, like any other offers of help, the problem here is not the absence of knowledge and scientific evidence.  Governance is the larger part of the problem.

We in Task Force Macajalar have been warning since 1991 about the possibility of an Ormoc-like tragedy in Cagayan de Oro. The January 2009 flood was a great warning from heaven.

Many of us were tempted to just say “we told you so” and move on with our lives. Socio-anthropologist Dr. Antonio Montalvan told me: “After the Sendong tragedy, you in Task Force Macajalar have now gained the moral high ground to say ‘we told you so.’”

Every time I think of the more than 1,000 lives lost, the wreckage and the fiddling by the city government in times of great tragedy, I cry and have that intense revolting feeling in my heart.

 (MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. BenCyrus G. Ellorin is an environmentalist from Cagayan de Oro. He was the campaigns coordinator and spokesperson of the environmental coalition Task Force Macajalar, the group that staged several anti-logging human barricades from the 1990s to 2000. He is a senior editor of an Arabian newspaper’s South Asia and Philippine Bureau based in Subic Bay Freeport Zone. Comments can be sent to