ILAGAN, ISABELA — When Maria Gracia Cielo ‘Grace’ Padaca was proclaimed governor of the northeastern province of Isabela in 2004 after a hotly contested election, she knew that an even tougher battle awaited her.
Padaca has been hailed by local and international media as a hero and a giant slayer, for defeating then Governor Faustino Dy Jr. and wresting the post that various members of the Dy family had monopolized for 34 years. Her supporters have since said that she has made a good beginning by opening up democratic space, granting unprecedented access to her constituents, and instituting programs that benefit many Isabelinos.
OF ALL the companies cutting trees in the Quezon and Aurora provinces, Green Circle Properties and Resources Inc. (GCPRI) stands out. For one, GCPRI is not a wood-based company. For another, its president Romeo Roxas burns money literally.
AT A wedding of a wealthy Filipino-Chinese family late last year, the bride and the groom became the privileged godchildren of a high government official who was one of their many sponsors. The event would have passed unnoticed, except that the padrino was Environment Secretary Michael Defensor and the family involved owned a company that had its tree-harvesting operations suspended by Defensor’s immediate predecessor at the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).
PUERTO PRINCESA SUBTERRANEAN RIVER NATIONAL PARK — The future of the Philippines may well hang on places like this — a mountain with a majestic canopy of virgin forest and a coastline fringed with towering stands of mangrove trees.
As the country reels from yet another disaster linked to large-scale deforestation and politicians search for ways to appease public outrage about logging, the most workable and sustainable solutions — involving communities in the struggle to preserve the environment — are once again being ignored.