By Virginia J. Pasalo
LA UNION representative and former Agoo mayor Sandra Eriguel is proposing to carve out 26, 0000 hectares out of 31,000 hectares of forest and watershed along both sides of the Marcos Highway, an area declared protected by Presidential Proclamation 1754, signed by President Marcos in 1978 to protect the mountain route from erosion.
Eriguel’s House Bill 678 would repeal the decree. Eriguel is pushing this bill for “unnamed residential and agricultural claimants – likely for roadside hotels, shops, and other commercial purposes. Only 5,000 hectares of forest would be left along the erosion-prone mountainside.” That should alarm us all.
Why should Pangasinan, the Ilocos Region and the rest of the country be concerned? Because the highway leads to Baguio City, and it is the educational center of the North. Students from Pangasinan and all over the region go to school there. Tourists go there, especially in summer. Rock slides had occurred, more recently in 2015, which rendered the highway impassable. Shaving off eighty-four percent (84%) will truly endanger this road. Jarius Bondoc of the Philippine Star warns, “Imagine rocks and mud cascading down the highway.”
Environmentalists are concerned that Eriguel’s bill will be passed in the House of Representatives, considering how it behaved in the past. Whether the Senate will behave differently is anybody’s guess, considering that some of the “environmental legislators” are very quiet about it.
Change has come indeed. There is a change in government leaders, but they all belong to the same class. Except for a few, they are all the same, wheeling, dealing, scheming, for their own ends. They get together, they separate, they get together again, exchanging partners, in a hideous dance. It will be a challenge for the few who exercise their independence to withstand the pressure from colleagues to be a “team player” to push for legislations that benefit most, if not all of them.
I had hoped for a change in policy, because it is unrealistic to expect a change of heart. But that is not coming, the trees continue to be massacred in the name of development, the mountains continue to be desecrated by mining industries, and lands that used to be “protected” and those granted to indigenous communities are being encroached upon, for the benefit of individuals and corporations who escape sanctions, because without their financial support and political influence, the candidates who won, could not have won.
twenty-five centavos, one peso
on the sidewalk, on the floor, on parking lots
at day’s end, transforms into a meal or a candy
for beggars, street children, street families or the elderly
five pesos, ten pesos, twenty pesos
alms for the displaced and the homeless
cost of ball pens peddled on jeepneys
cost of sampaguita and ilang-ilang
peddled by child workers
tips to gasoline boys
hundred pesos, sometimes two
for the boys, waiting in parlors
adventure in mystery holes
hot caboose on the loose
on the loose, foot loose
six hundred thousand- peso gown
one million three hundred photoshoot
loose change for a loose foot.