On the St. Bernard tragedy
Communist Party of the Philippines
February 19, 2006
The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and the entire revolutionary movement join the Filipino people at this time of profound sadness at the death of possibly over a thousand people who were buried and many more who were hurt and who have lost their homes, farms and possessions in the mudslides that swamped the Southern Leyte town of St. Bernard last Friday.
The CPP enjoins all revolutionary forces, including the New People's Army (NPA), as well as all democratic organizations in Southern Leyte, to undertake all possible efforts at extending assistance to the rescue and relief operations in the area. The Eastern Visayas Regional Party Committee together with the concerned provincial and front committees are planning out efforts to mobilize its forces and the people in the affected and nearby areas and to muster all possible medical, material and other forms of support for the victims of this tragedy.
The magnitude of the St. Bernard tragedy underscores the extent of the self-interested, irresponsible, and cruel destruction of the environment caused by wanton big-scale logging and mining operations by foreign big capitalists and their local partners since the American colonial period up to the present. The erstwhile forests and mountainous areas of Southern Leyte have, in fact, been completely logged over since the 1970s, making these vulnerable to landslides and mudslides, especially in the face of large volumes of rainfall as had happened right before the latest mudslides. Over the past two decades, the island of Leyte has seen one environmental catastrophe after another, including the Ormoc tragedy of 1991.
Despite the repeated national clamor to put a stop to the wanton destruction of the environment, especially after the massive landslides in north Quezon and Aurora in 2004, the Arroyo regime has brazenly acted as representative of the biggest plunderers and ravagers of the nation's natural resources. Since 2004, the Arroyo regime has vigorously promoted and campaigned for the expansion and intensification of mining operations by big foreign companies in the Philippines. It has even mobilized its armed forces to give protection to these companies and suppress protests and resistance to their operations.
Furthermore, it has continued to allow large-scale commercial logging to favor its closest allies and bribe its detractors. In order to win over the ambivalent Senator Juan Ponce Enrile, the Arroyo government skirted its own laws and granted the San Jose Timber Company permission to resume its logging activities in close to a hundred thousand hectares of protected forest parks in Samar for another 16 years. DENR Secretary Mike Defensor, however, could not but give in to the overwhelming and vehement protests by the Samareños and various sectors of the people including peasant associations, concerned religious clergy, environmentalists and middle forces.
It is utterly criminal for the Arroyo regime to urge the expansion and intensification of big-scale commercial and foreign mining and logging operations in the country, knowing full well how these rob the national patrimony, destroy the environment and endanger the lives of millions of people.
The Filipino people reject the crocodile tears being shed by Gloria Arroyo over the St. Bernard tragedy. They denounce the government's lack of immediate effective response and sufficient facilities for disaster response as a result of Arroyo's prioritizing the military and debt-payments. The failure to immediately send in the urgently needed power generators, helicopters and even thermal sensors that are prioritized for military, espionage and other purposes had delayed the rescue efforts and lessened the probability of saving more lives.
The CPP and all revolutionary forces support fully the open mass movement's all out campaign to put a stop to the US-Arroyo regime's subservience to interests of big foreign capitalists and their local lackeys and their wanton plunder and destruction of the environment. At the same time, the New People's Army (NPA), the local organs of people's democratic political power and the entire revolutionary movement shall undertake the necessary revolutionary actions to contribute to the people's resistance against large-scale destructive mining and logging and enforce the environmental policies of the revolutionary government.