Poaching of Cotabato black coral: Are Filipinos entitled to their outrage?

What’s all the fuss about the destruction of the coral reef off Cotabato for a couple odd container vans of black coral? It sounds a bit hypocritical of Filipinos to be huffing and puffing about yet another wasteland created under their watch when they’ve overseen decades of wanton destruction and squandering of resources that had once been served up to them on a silver platter.

The Philippines is, in fact, a beautiful country. The trouble with it lies in the people who inhabit it. Much of what is left of what is considered beautiful about the Philippines and used for desperate pitches to showcase the country as a great destination for tourists lies in parts of it that have so far been spared the reverse-Midas-touch of Filipinos. Unfortunately, what the Philippine Islands are today — a bald wasteland of poignant could-have-beens — is the outcome of the unimaginative and short-sighted stewardship of the Filipino. I wrote the following way back in my piece “Tourist industry of last resort (no pun intended)” on FilipinoVoices.com

Filipinos have for the last several decades systematically destroyed the very natural wonders it now desperately hawks to anyone out there with foreign exchange to spare for leisure.

Indeed, evidence of Filipino habitation is next-to-impossible to ignore in these named-after-a-Spanish-king islands. No less than 3.4 million hectares of forest cover has disappeared from 1990 to 2005. Primary forest cover now accounts for just 2.8% of total land area in these islands. Add to that the human excrement we regularly dump into our rivers and stormwater drains. Years ago, I took a helicopter flight over Manila and the thing I remember the most is looking down upon the port area of Manila Bay and seeing a huge blot of black water at the mouth of the Pasig River contrasting sharply with the green-bluish water further out to sea.

So I regard with a bit of bemusement this whole stink over the “pillage” of the Cotabato coral reef that is now making headline news. Like the “pillage” of the lush tropical rainforests that once covered most of the Philippine Islands that we blame on the eeeevvvviiiillllll loggers, we now blame the “plunder” of the Cotabato coral reef on the eeeeevvvvviiiiillllll poachers and call on the government to “throw the book at them, their suppliers, consigners and enablers.”

But for a change the Inquirer.net editor is right

Such a brazen and wide-ranging flouting of the law could not have happened without the collusion of people up and down the bureaucratic chain. Who booked the boats that went out to sea? Who paid the locals that undertook the harvesting? Whose warehouse kept the goods and packaged them for shipment? Who in the government regulatory agencies averted their eyes or prepared the paperwork while all this was going on?

Indeed, everybody is accountable. Filipinos are renowned for remaining silent — and even complicit — while sitting in front row seats beholding a show of banal impropriety and criminality every day that to them counts as business-as-usual. That show is the Philippines.

Philippine society is a value-destroying machine that possesses a burnt-in programming that makes it top-notch at systemic plunder. It is a society that denuded the land that hosts it, turned its premiere city that was once the jewel of the Orient into the human cesspool that it is today, and now exhibits token shock at the most recent revelation of appalling waste under its watch.

Filipinos need not look too far beyond their immediate neighbourhoods or even their very doorsteps for evidence of this national talent for degradation. Garbage and open sewers line many of Manila’s streets. Rubbish is routinely incinerated in many residential backyards. Obnoxious resorts are built on once pristine beaches. The ablest of Filipino malehood routinely urinate on public alleys in broad daylight. The national mode of public transport fills the air with black soot and the din of muffler-less motoring every morning.

The plunder of the Cotabato coral reef for its wealth of black coral is nothing short of a national tragedy. But taken in the context of the extensive track record of general unmindfulness, neglect, and lack of foresight of the Filipino, this “tragedy” fades into the vast woodwork of Filipinos’ astounding deficit of the imagination required to appreciate the real bounty of their land.

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Post Author: benign0

benign0 is the Webmaster of GetRealPhilippines.com.