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

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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.

8 Replies to “Poaching of Cotabato black coral: Are Filipinos entitled to their outrage?”

  1. Our natural resources are gifts from our Divine Source. We have to protect them. when Greed, from few people; who are in power, prevails…we have to prevent it…because we, the people owns these natural resources…
    The coral reef destroyed will take many years to be revitalized…they are the spawning areas of fishes and other marine animals…
    What is the Noynoy Aquino administration doing to protect these valuable natural resources?

    1. @Hyden Toro. I disagree. It is not entirely the responsibility of the Noynoy administration to protect valuable natural resources. Mindanaoans keep complaining about being a mere appendage to imperialist Manila and yet seem to exhibit very little will to take control of their futures — which to be fair, is a trait evident across the entire swath of Filipino-dom. As in any other place in the Philippines, Chinese traders dominate and control the economy of Mindanao. In short, the Chinese managed to prosper in Mindanao too. If they could then why not the locals?

      All roads lead back to culture.

      As Joe America pointed out in his comment further down, there is no ethic of confronting challenge and no pride found in prevailing over adversity in the Filipino mind — only fiesta mentalities and pwede-na-yan mediocrity exists in the heads of a people 100 million-strong.

      1. “only fiesta mentalities and pwede-na-yan mediocrity exists in the heads of a people 100 million-strong.”


        Poverty and lack of education is the culprit…

  2. I do not believe the Filipino people will come to their senses until some time AFTER all that natural wealth is completely wasted. And even then they might not know how to respond.

  3. What is missing from Philippine social conscience is an enjoyment of doing that which is hard, for the good of it. There is no widely-seated pride in achievement that comes from sacrifice. The WWII veterans had it. But since then, it is every Filipino for himself.

    Marcosian thinking became a way of life.
    Honor and joy are now found in personal gain. The method is to tear down others to build oneself up, and to rip the beauty from the land to sell on the black market for personal gain. Those who “get it” are few. The voices of protest are meaningless. The rationalizations for destruction abound.

    There are no leaders able to rally the national conscience or instill a different set of motivations. The cries of patriotism are shallow show-biz glitz, waving cloth in the air, not commitments.

    If I were to be brutal, I’d say it is a nation of cowards, an entire people willing to turn their backs rather than endure the conflicts that arise when confronting destructive behavior by their relatives, friends and neighbors. No conscience, no high-minded personal principles, no willingness to confront . . . in daily living.

    Yet, no Filipino will admit that he fits into this class.

    Therein resides the great mystery. How so much destruction occurs when no one admits to being an enabler.

    1. though it’s true that not even mister daang matuwid himself is able to rally the national conscience or instill a different set of motivations (because heck, he doesn’t walk the walk, does he?), why do filipinos have to be led the right path? are pinoys just 90 million sheep, unable to do anything unless led there? or is it just another excuse to blend in with everybody else who prefers to party in the face of decay while waiting to be forced out of it? are we ridiculously unequipped to do the right thing?

      why not get that incredibly influential kris aquino (who endorses everything from shampoo, to genital wash, to cakes, to tiles, to pencils, to phones, to corned beef, to milk) to tell people to dispose of garbage properly, to pee in the john, to not spend what they haven’t earned, to stop watching so much abscbn to conserve energy?

      because with this culture, that ain’t gonna work. not with a nation of cowards. joe’s right on that one, because pinoys are stuck and unwilling to stand up against the stinky norm – the norm every other pinoy is very proud of.

  4. please protect our fruit bats they are our true planters on our mountains and jungles we cant afford to send our student over the mountains to plant trees once a year.. fruit bats doing it every night we just have to protect their habitat please dont cut the trees where they live…

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