Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Read and rage

The title for this blog came from my boss who forwarded this legal memorandum by Atty. Neri Javier Colmenares on the proposed amendments to the Philippine constitution prepared by the House of Representatives. The original email she got from another friend was entitled "Read and weep". Indeed, Atty. Colmenares' memorandum noted a lot of things to weep about in the proposed amendments, from the scandalous expansion of the powers and terms of office of the President and legislators, to the deletion or revision of specific provisions that aim to ensure transparency and accountability in the various branches and processes of government. I imagine people who sincerely believe in that thing called "participatory governance" having such terrible fits at the thought of hoodlums in Congress mangling the provisions of the present constitution.

The proposed provision for the utilization and management of natural resources is a nightmare for many civil society actors who are into environmental conservation work:

“The exploration, development, and utilization of natural resources shall be under the full control and supervision of the State. The State may directly undertake such activities, or it may enter into co-production, joint venture, or production-sharing agreements with Filipino citizens [DELETED: OR CORPORATIONS OR ASSOCIATIONS AT LEAST SIXTY PER CENTUM OF WHOSE CAPITAL IS OWNED BY SUCH CITIZENS] or with corporation or association domestic or foreign (new provision in red)

The deletions are in relation to the existing 1987 Constitution. Atty. Colmenares has commented on such omission and on the blatant new provision that according to him would effectively allow utilization of the country's natural resources by corporations that are fully owned and run by foreign nationals. Of course, Atty. Colmenares failed to mention that exploitation of our natural resources by firms that are a hundred percent foreign-owned and controlled is actually already happening, the constitutional ban notwithstanding. Thus, as what our honorable representatives in Congress looking into the Rapu-Rapu mining disaster has recently discovered, LaFayette Mining Limited is actually owned by the Australians and Malaysians. No Filipinos there. Though I'm sure some very enterprising and influential Filipinos benefited from its operations.

But that's one peculiar trait of local hoodlums. Believe it or not, they also have this thing that they unabashedly would like to call their "conscience". They are not contented with their income from illegal foreign plunder of the country's natural resources and the destruction of it's environment. These hoodlums in our policy-making bodies now want to make such activities legal and their own earnings legitimate. So they are now tinkering with the basic law of the land. Like my boss, I don't think weeping would stop these hoodlums in suits. We should rage against their short-sighted economic rationality and insist that the nation's wealth belongs to all Filipinos and the succeeding generations. We should continue to talk about their power-corrupted political logic and continue to fight for popular and accountable social-ecological governance.

For starters, I propose the following amendments to the constitution:

“The exploration, development, utilization and sustainable management of natural resources shall be under the full control and supervision of local people and communities and their democratic organizations who directly benefit from such resources. Local communities and organization may directly undertake these activities or may enter into joint ventures or agreements with other local communities and organizations for the sole purpose of sustainably managing these resources. The State shall provide such services and resources that these local communities and organizations may deem necessary in furthering this objective."

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