ADVOCACY MINDANOW: Yearend random thoughts

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/06 January) — As I sat on my favorite siesta lounging chair on lush green bermuda grass by the beach looking out blankly at the blue waters in front of me on a lazy Saturday two days after New Year’s Day, random thoughts, mostly from the year that just passed, came.

GETTING SICK –First, there’s this thing about getting sick. For one, I don’t have the explanation but for several years now, I always get sick with fever and physical weariness and fatigue starting New Year’s Day. No, it’s not because of over indulgence during the holidays. Or of “senior moments“. It comes like clockwork for several years now. It could be psychologically self- induced or whatever. It’s akin to a regular “pit stop” like some racecar driver who makes quick stops to check his car to win the race. My only consolation is that I don’t get seriously sick, as far as I can recall, the whole year round. (Knock on wood!!) It’s like getting my dose of physical ailments at this time — in exchange for a whole year of good health. I could not ask for more.

PRESIDENTIABLES — As I sat there musing, my thoughts were on the coming presidential elections. Mayor Rody “Digong” Duterte and his possible run for the presidency momentarily came to mind.

Knowing a bit about him, my sixth sense tells me he will go for it if there’s a good chance he will make it. His political genes will compel him to. This is not to mention some clear clarion call to duty that public servants like him cannot just totally ignore.

In the meantime, Vice President Jojo Binay is still the front-runner by a mile, inspite of his travails. Sen. Grace Poe is being groomed while Secretary Mar Roxas is still the candidate-in-waiting of the formidable administration machine. Senator “Bongbong” Marcos, meanwhile, is starting to make waves with the much touted “solid north” that is no longer just limited in the “north” but already penetrating all over the country.

I know Digong charts his political course through the time-tested political compass: surveys. So he will look at the survey numbers by mid-2015. If the  numbers will  be viable by then, he will go. Otherwise, he will “pass“.

For sure, there are no limits to possibilities and scenarios given that  May 2016 is just about 18 months away

POWER — I looked across the gulf waters and from where I sat, I spotted the glistening COAL DOME of Aboitiz’ Therma South Inc. that I visited the previous week. My thoughts felt relieved that in the near term, Mindanao will be able to address its critical power deficiency. There are other big coal -fired plants being built now like Ayala’s GN Power plant in Kauswagan, Lanao del Norte and Mr. Ramon Ang’s power plant now rising in Malita, Davao Occidental. There are other projects elsewhere.  Power self-sufficiency is a MUST for Mindanao’s sustained growth. For the environmentalist, it may ease their angst knowing the government’s stringent regulations will have to be strictly observed and they can devote their time and advocacy in monitoring strict observance of these internationally accepted standards. Unlike the “dirty coal” of the past, modern technologies are now seeing to it that the “cost benefit ratio” is on the side of clean environment and healthy living.

FISH CAGES — Looking across the gulf towards the coal dome, my eyesight got entangled with the fish cages dotting the coastline. I once listened to the “p—-ng i—a’s” of Mayor Duterte over his TV Sunday program wishing those fish cages to disappear immediately. I recall our Seagull resort had a fish cage before for tourism and resort use but when former Mayor Sara Duterte ordered removals, we complied forthwith. Some operators sent word they would also comply but asked to let one harvest season to pass due to new stocks dropped in the cages. That was more than two years and many harvest seasons ago. Unfortunately, the other operators, mostly big names, lent deaf ears. In fact, more cages sprouted in clear defiance. There are reports that some operate without permits and without clearances from the agencies concerned. I recall the Punta Dumalag area was classified as a tourism, environment protected area and not a big septic tank for the pollution-prone commercially grown millions of bangus. I was told that in order not to disrupt the business livelihood of those who invested already, the cages will be transferred or towed somewhere else. It has not happened yet. Mayor Duterte had said his piece and bothering him to follow through is unnecessary. It may be advisable for the operators themselves to just comply and move somewhere else as directed. How could some be so openly and boldly defiant? In my case, I will patiently wait!

In the meantime, I got word that Aboitiz’ Davao Light Co. which owns the tip portion of the “punta” has started area development to upgrade and transform the turtle sanctuary into a wholesome environment-friendly nature’s  park for city residents, especially students. Boardwalks and other amenities will be built to preserve the sanctuary ambience of the area. So, how can pollution-prone bangus production mesh gears with this planned nature’s park next door?  Don’t ask me! Don’t also ask Mayor Duterte for that matter!

BLOODY CARNAGE — Then something flashed in my mind. I suddenly remembered the bloody carnage of innocent civilians hours before midnight struck for the New Year in Mlang town in North Cotabato. Some questions raced in my mind. How were the victims and their relatives in the three bomb explosions in north Cotabato and Bukidnon over the last few weeks coping and managing their sufferings in the midst of this merriment? Their being noncombatants and just innocent victims totally detached from the conflict that impelled the terrorism was something we could not comprehend nor accept. I had a brief chat exchange with Gov. LALA TALINIO MENDOZA of North Cotabato. She was devastated by the incident that hit her constituents who were making last-minute buys for the media noche.

BANGSAMORO — Then my attention turned to the Bangsamoro agreement. I read a recent article by former North Cotabato Governor Manny Pinol asking pointed questions and worrying that such bloody incidents not being prevented or solved put a big question mark on the success and viability of the agreement with the MILF. He asked: “how can MILF bring their promised peace to their troubled land if they cannot even deal with its own breakaway groups?” Or words to that effect. Former Gov. Manny, by the way, has his roots and holds sway politically in Mlang town where two recent bombs killed and wounded his own people. Before he made his mark nationally and before his debut into politics, he was a bright, young reporter at the Mindanao Times. One day he walked into my editor’s office and bade me goodbye saying he would sully into the bigger world out there in Manila to try his luck. He never looked back. The rest, as we always say, is history.

GOVT MUST ACT — Laying the onus of the problem on MILF’s doorsteps may not be on target. It is primarily the duty of the government to enforce the law and prevent lawlessness with or without a peace agreement. It should not lose by default. If the government and the AFP cannot effectively punish the bad guys, don’t expect the MILF to do it for us.

MILF CAN HELP— As I see things today, the AFP is holding its punches perhaps fearing that an all-out offensive against BIFF, including the MILF bad guys, will endanger the peace process. As a matter of fact, that was what we felt too during our watch in the Arroyo administration. But mark this: the AFP at that time went ahead and attacked MILF’s Buliok Complex and sent fleeing for his life MILF Chairman Hashim Salamat when things turned intolerable. Our peace panel that I headed was meeting with Speaker Jose de Venecia in Manila when the late Defense Secretary Angie Reyes marched his troops into combat in Central Mindanao. Today, with a peace agreement already signed and sealed, MILF can voluntarily cooperate and step aside to help the AFP deal with the BIFF and other anti-peace elements. It may be good to deal with those peace disrupters this early while we are working out the peace mechanics. For one thing, this will also put a test on the MILF and help clear some lingering suspicions that they are playing a “bad cop good cop” game with the BIFF as their orchestrated “bad cop“.

My final word on this: having been there myself before, I must hurriedly add that all this is easier said than done. So there!

RESPECT FOR LUMADS — Then my thoughts turned to those poor, unfortunate families, mostly “Loads” who were transported to Davao city on board trucks to “enjoy” the Season the “urban” way. I saw how some of them found their way in the city streets begging for “gifts” or for some measly coins as dole outs. The intentions of bringing Christmas cheers to our hinterland Lumads may be laudable but I agonized at the indignity they had to go through knocking on vehicle doors or coming in hordes at motorists or passersby willing to shell out something. Their being housed in public buildings of course initially raised sanitation issues. Sorry to say but we encouraged our Lumads to be mendicants. (Like those graft-prone 4Ps dole outs that have become institutionalized by the P-Noy administration.)

We can give them cheers by bringing them here for a quick stay but please NOT for the whole duration of the Season. We can also bring goodies to them right there in their own communities instead of temporarily uprooting them from their usual habitat and comfort zones.

I remember reading a study where it questioned our usual tendency to expose our indigenous peoples to so-called modern ways of living and then when they returned to their normal lives in their places of origin, their level of happiness becomes unduly distorted with higher expectations  of the good life but obviously not achievable to them given their actual situation and capability.

FORMULA FOR JOY — I recall reading somewhere the arithmetical formula of achieving joy or HAPPINESS. It is EXPECTATIONS divided by DELIVERY equals level of HAPPINESS. Try this out. If one EXPECTS P100 pesos but what is DELIVERED is only P50 pesos, he is only ONE-HALF HAPPY. However, if he expects only P50 pesos (not P100) and he receives the SAME amount of P50 pesos, he is FULL HAPPY. Raising the EXPECTATIONS factor will radically change the equation.

Hence, raising expectations of a good urban life to our Lumads who obviously cannot get the same expectations fulfilled or delivered will engender more dissatisfaction or unhappiness. The study even cautioned “do-gooders” to lay off our indigenous peoples who are happily contented with their traditional and indigenous ways and way of life. We should not supplant their ways with ours. Let’s leave them alone and not tinker with their lives. Yes, we can help them with their basic needs that they lack be it in education or health. But generally, let them be.  For example, I have seen how some NGOs used Lumad communities for resource generation, (aka project funding proposals), then “immersed” themselves in several Lumad communities, gave some assistance but only to fold tent just because their funding support from somewhere had dried up! Or their projects non-sustainable. The poor Lumads are left with new — but empty — bags. Unmet expectations!

Just some random thoughts as we enter 2015. (MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. Jesus “Jess” Dureza served in various capacities under the nine-year Arroyo administration, including the posts of government peace panel chair in the negotiations with the MILF from 2001 to 2003 and as Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process).