VANCOUVER (Canada) — A British Columbia Member of Parliament is pushing for a probe in the Philippines to determine the root cause of the Typhoon Sendong disaster in Cagayan de Oro.
In a letter to Philippine President Benigno Aquino, Don Davies, the Member of Parliament representing the riding of Vancouver – Kingsway, urged Manila to take heed of the call of Roman Catholic Archbishop Antonio Ledesma who blames indiscriminate logging and mining, some by internationally-linked firms for the widespread devastation.
The electoral district of Davies is comprised of about 120,000 people, 15,000 of whom are of Filipino descent.
“I write to add my voice, and the voice of the people in my riding, to this reasonable and responsible proposal,” stated Davies in his letter.
Davies said the disaster was brought to his attention by local Cagayanons, including Benny Rago and Annie Gorra, who now reside in Vancouver, B.C., and are members of his riding.
“Davies immediately acted on our request. He personally called to inform us of his support and to give his sympathy,” said Gorra. “We are very thankful.” In his letter, Davis mentioned that he has heard “that certain mining and logging practices in the area around Cagayan de Oro may have been contributing factors to the damage, destruction and death that ensued from tropical storm Sendong,” Gorra said according to media in the Philippines.
He asked Manila to determine the causes of the disaster so that the same calamity might be averted in the future. Besides the letter, the Member of Parliament also tabled the issue in the Canada-Philippines Parliamentary Friendship Association which he co-chairs. “It might sound strange that an MP from Vancouver should be concerned of something that occurred in a far place such as Cagayan de Oro,” said Gorra.
“However, Vancouver is not that far considering that many Cagayanons reside in this place. And what happens in one corner of the globe will ultimately affect the entire world.”
Typhoon Sendong was tagged internationally as 2011’s deadliest storm.
Typhoon Sendong last December disrupted the lives of more than 120,000 families-or 1.1 million Filipinos-in 815 villages and 8 cities in 13 provinces. At the peak of the rescue operations, at least 280,000 individuals were housed in evacuation centers. Relief goods were transported and distributed at these centers by civilian volunteers and members of the military as they distributed blankets, kerosene lamps, bottled water, topical medicines, clothing, hygiene kits, and food. Hundreds are still missing.
At least 6,600 families or 32,000 Filipinos remain in 55 evacuation centers.
Millions of dollars in aid from Canada has been pouring in for the victims from Ottawa and private initiatives by Filipino-Canadians.
Davies wrote his letter following remarks by by Filipino Archbishop Antonio Ledesma who reprimanded local officials for maintaining a “business as usual” attitude on the destructive hydraulic mining in the hinterland villages in Cagayan de Oro despite the risks it posed to the communities living downstream.
Ledesma urged the local government of Cagayan de Oro to allow multi-sectoral environment monitoring teams to verify the effects of the illegal mining activities in the hinterland villages of Iponan River.
“It is unconscionable for city officials to adopt a business-as-usual attitude for mining permits to continue. At the very least multi-sectoral monitoring teams should be allowed to verify on the ground the effects of these mining activities, whether small-scale or large-scale,” Ledesma said.
Ledesma, who also called for a total log ban, demanded from the city government a full disclosure of the identities of the mining firms, their allotted areas and contribution to the local economy.
The city government earlier said there are only two mining firms operating in Iponan but an opposition councilor disclosed that City Hall approved the mining licenses of nine firms using “special permits.”
Councilor Edgar Cabanlas identified the mining firms as Dinamet Mining Corporation, Yellow Stone Development Corporation, SNS Metal Trading Corp., White Pearl Asia Corporation, Perfect World Mining Corporation, Javez Hinterland Resources and Cagayan de Oro Finest Metals.