Pandan Antique Philippines

Appeal to the Senators

December 25, 2000

The Honorable Senators
Philippine Senate
Manila, Philippines

Dear Sirs & Madams:

The Semirara dumpsite proposal that MMDA deems to be the solution to Metro Manila’s garbage problem is inconsiderate and unjust that it should not be approved.

I represent the views of the Pandan Antique Foundation, Pagtatap USA and Pagtatap Philippines whose members are from Pandan, Antique. The island of Semirara, Antique, is only a few kilometers from Pandan. Semirara is not just any island. It boasts of a marine turtle habitat, a beautiful coral reef and a thriving fishing industry. It is a peaceful place to live in. Above all, it is part of the last remaining multibiodiversified area in Northern Panay that is still intact.

Putting a dumpsite on Semirara Island to accommodate Metro Manila’s 2,500 tons of daily garbage is a blatant disregard for the island’s ecosystem, identity, and uniqueness. Antique is not an affluent province and it is underprivileged in many ways. However, despite Antique’s limited wealth, its residents try to make do with what. Semirara and its neighboring islands capitalize on the sea as their source of food and livelihood. Their simple, quiet life is what matters to them the most and they want to keep it that way. They do not want the dumpsite and they drafted a resolution opposing it. The neighboring islands including Boracay also signed petitions rejecting the dumpsite. Boracay fears the demise of its tourist industry.

MMDA persists on telling the people in Metro Manila that their garbage problem is coming to an end. The barges are being loaded to start their 385-kilometer and three-day journey to Semirara on December 29 to meet their scheduled January 2001dumping. Aventejado and Binay are so confident that the DENR stipulations and restrictions on the landfill site will be lifted to allow the dumping. The signed resolutions and protests at the public hearing in San Jose, Antique, on December 15 and 22 have been deliberately ignored.

What message are Aventejado and Binay giving the country? Are they saying that they are so powerful that they are above the law; that “might is right” so the little and unobtrusive island of Semirara is insignificant and expendable? DMCI, the contractor for the dumpsite, already owns the Semirara Coal Corporation (SCC) on the island. SCC is in violation of several labor and environmental laws involving exploitation of the workers and toxic contamination of the waters. Why are these violations overlooked, thus allowing the company to perpetuate its wrong-doing on a yet larger scale?

It is disconcerting to think that the wishes and lives of the islanders seem to hold no value at all. There is no regard for their right to self-determination, their right to be protected from exploitation, and their right to be considered as equals in the eyes of the law. Just because the residents are less educated doesn’t mean that they are less human.

To the Semirara residents and their neighbors, their island is their whole world and it is the only place they feel they belong. Destroy their island and you not only destroy the fishes, the marine turtles, the coral reefs, and the birds, but you also destroy the very fiber of their being.

Please oppose the Semirara dumpsite. Let the islanders continue to enjoy their life of self-sufficiency and peaceful contentment. Don’t equate and compromise their life to a dumpsite that they don’t want.

Very truly yours,

Washington, USA