An eco-cultural imperative
By Virginia J. Pasalo
WE build on the foundations of culture and history to guide our paths. Clearly the word, “Your Honor” is no longer a title of honor unless deserved. More than the strategy that ensured victory, is the ability to inspire, respect, and mobilize citizens to respect each other’s humanity and aspirations. To fail to inspire and to perform is a place of dishonor, but to act against nature and culture, to choose to ignore its impact to human life, will define a destiny devoid of greatness.
Investments in Pangasinan must preserve the dignity of the Mangatarem forests and the few remaining forests in other towns. The coastal towns, especially Bolinao, must endeavor to mitigate profit motives vis-a-vis the long-term survival of its marine life, avoiding investments that further degrade the already degraded habitat. All production and manufacturing activities must relocate to a place far from the coastline, where its wastes can be contained, and not directly dumped into the sea, exposing fish and the marine ecosystem to toxic elements harmful to our food supply. Food is life. Water is life. Land is life. If we continue not to care, we are in effect, signing our own death sentence.
Encroachment in coastal areas, such as Patar in Bolinao, by land grabbers who wave their “legitimate” papers under the noses of residents who have lived in these areas for centuries, must be examined for their legitimacy, by an exhaustive research into how the alleged owners have obtained their papers, the history of their development initiatives, and the individual tax declarations of the proponents for the last ten years. The thoroughness of research, in addition to an assessment of the ecological impact of proposed projects, can give the authorities, like the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), enough information to assess the implementation of economic initiatives in coastal areas vis-à-vis the ecological rate of return. No amount of infrastructure development for tourism can justify the long-term survival of an endangered marine life.
Pangasinan needs to explore a sustainable strategy for livelihood and employment, encouraging investments from returning OFWs and creatively exploring profitable non-extractive, environment-friendly industries that reduce the ecological footprint of the province. For this to happen, out-of-the-box entrepreneurs must be engaged, encouraged to invest in the projects with tax exemptions and rebates higher than those provided to commercial establishments, like Shoemart. These investments will generate their own waste, and therefore we must anticipate a more imaginative way to manage, recycle and reuse commercial waste. Environmental taxes must be imposed to maintain the environmental integrity and sanity of our resources.
As Pangasinan attains progress, populations in the industry centers will grow, and at this time, there must already be a blueprint prepared to harness the informal settlers, train them for skills, and to negotiate their transfer to new industry areas, vacating their present locations to give way for a more organized urban development in the former settlement areas. This strategy will also decongest major cities where informal settlers congregate.
With the escalation of the war in Mindanao, Pangasinan will be a likely place for migration, and the challenge is to manage a culturally-diverse population. We cannot refuse victims from conflict areas, it is bad karma. The only option is to plan ahead, allocate alternative spaces for a proactive assimilation of other cultures to enrich our own, and to help our beleaguered brothers and sisters find new meanings in Pangasinan.
An eco-cultural agenda is imperative, and must become part and parcel of Pangasinan’s Development Plan.