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[Y-SPACE] Trapped in Ruins: The Unseen Havoc of Development in the Contemporary World

By Philip Joshua D.C. Santiago

Our country – the Philippines has been known as the “Pearl of the Orient Seas” due to its geographic and strategical location as proved by its total islands of more than 7,000, making it one of the largest archipelagos in the world, which become the trademark as the “Southeast Asia’s Destination Hub.” It is also described as an agricultural, rural, and tropical country, and one of the 18 megadiverse countries globally, containing two-thirds of the Earth’s biodiversity wherein between 70% to 80% of the world’s plant and animal species can be found. Likewise, our country’s major center of economic activity is ranging from shipping, industrial, commercial, aquaculture, and tourism activities which are all connected to the environment since it was one of the major contributors to economic growth and stability.

However, as development occurs in the contemporary world, the country’s natural environment and its instinct habitat are facing threats which we can see from innovative and advanced technological equipment, improved facilities, and modernized cities in both rural and urban areas – the main goal of modernization and industrialization in the so-called “globalization.” Likewise, it suffers major human-caused environment degradation aggravated by a high annual population growth rate, loss of agricultural lands, deforestation, loss of coral reefs, mismanagement of abuse of coastal resources, and overfishing due to the abusive man-made actions.

Also, most recent data eloquently mentioned that our country’s environment degrades about 25% annually and has been intensified by air and water pollution, soil erosion, and improper disposal of solid and toxic waste materials coming from small and big business industries, most notably, the mining and dam companies. With that, it resulted in the degradation of the environment and ultimately leads to global warming and climate change, among others. In which it is a global issue that has been described as the direct driver of biodiversity loss worldwide by the end of the century. Therefore, humans and their invented development perspective have a strong influence on the environment through their behavior and approach to it.

It is often mentioned that a percentage of the contributory factors in the degradation of the environment are the small and big businesses, particularly, the mining and dam businesses. Those businesses are most likely to have resource-extraction processes and land-use conversion which can gravely degrade nature by their improper disposal of waste and toxic materials. Also, those types of machinery from mining companies contribute to air pollution leading to a major source of greenhouse gases emission to the atmosphere and global warming.

In the country’s context, since 1990, the government has approved more than 300 mineral production and/or dam companies which have several agreements that include technical and financial growth and assistance. Today, the current administration may concoct a lousy combination of foreign and domestic investors, in which in their perspective, those mining and dam businesses is a ‘development project that further contributes to the country’s economic growth and at the same time, in the name of globalization, modernization and development take place. However, looking in a deeper context, those companies of mining and dams are characterized in a materialist approach from a Marxist perspective of “capitalist by nature” since they tend to exploit and extract resources to accumulate profits for their own set of benefits. As proven by many multiple supreme court complaints of mining and dam companies in our country, due to violations and impacts to the socio-economic, environmental, cultural, and human rights. Nevertheless, these capitalistic companies continue to operate, even though the country’s environment is dwindling and slitting.

Furthermore, the government's response to many legal complaints was to create different departments and agencies, legislation policies, and implement projects that address the country’s degradation in the environment. Some of those are the following:

  • Legislation policies: (1) RA 9003 – Ecological Solid Waste Management Act; (2) RA 8749 – Clean Air Act; (3) RA 9729 – Philippine Climate Change Act; (4) RA 9275 – Philippine Clean Water Act, among others;

  • Implemented program/projects: (1) Medium Term Philippine Development Plan of 2004-2010; (2) Manila Bay Rehabilitation Program; (3) National Wetlands Action Plan for the Philippines;

  • Department/Agencies: (1) DENR; (2) PAGASA; (3) DOST – those departments created to address the country’s environmental degradation and climate change together with advancing the country’s science and technology.

However, despite many legislation policies, implemented projects/programs, and different department/agencies that adheres the environmental problem, we cannot change the fact that our country continues to deteriorate and degrade. Although they're a lot of projects and policies in the country, there is a need for revitalizing, understanding and reforming the attitudes and/or concern towards the protection of the environment. It shall emphasize the importance of the environment’s immediate recovery. I can say that the government in its sort of effort of protecting our environment by making legislation polices, department and projects are just a legal trick that deceives and blind us to their hidden agenda which is to primarily exploit our resources.

Hence, our environment is now in a very deep crisis, reaching such a state of environmental degradation that our people experience its stark impact daily and its dire consequences. The combination of capitalistic mines and dams companies in our country have inflicted havoc on the country’s climate. These occurrences are direct indicators that our country is breaching vital limits and its risky points. Our country’s limited land and resources are now being pushed to their limits.

Therefore, our country needs a comprehensive land-use plan that strikes the right balance between economic growth and environmental conversation, ensuring that the remaining forest cover and watershed areas are preserved and expanded, while also controlling the demand for residential, institutional, and commercial zones. Likewise, our actions toward the aggression of development should be “socially inclusive and environmentally sustainable economic growth” in line with the adherence of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs). It will also create a domino effect that would help the government legislate a law or set of policies that would be clearly implemented and enforced promulgating environment protection.

In a nutshell, the country has a capitalist mindset which is clearly the product of capitalistic globalization where the first and foremost agenda is to provide opportunities for capitalistic companies to control, exploit, and extract resources for their own benefits. It is implicated that we will be forever trapped in ruins if we cannot take any actions against the misaligned ‘development’ perspective of our government leading to the deteoration of our environment. Their inaction is our suffering. We need to take action immediately and not falter in the decisions made by the ruling elite because the future generation is at stake. Let us solve this puzzle and get out of this never-ending maze. Let's protect and uphold our environment now.

Philip Joshua D.C. Santiago aka ‘PJ’ is a 3rd year Political Science student in Colegio de San Juan de Letran. He is simple but a witty one, and at the same time, a consistent Dean’s lister at the colegio. He describes himself as ‘Invictus’ which means ‘undefeated’ and his personality as ‘gold’ because it is ‘indestructible’ but with a love of knowledge and his mind full of wisdom.

YSPACE is a platform open for young writers to contribute their worth-sharing thoughts and stories to the world. It is a space for young people and by the young people which aims to promote a strong sense of empowerment and inspiration to young Filipinos.

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