Too late is the relief of four officials of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau in Central Visayas.
Too late is President Rodrigo Duterte’s review of the mining industry, years after mine closures by erstwhile environment secretary Regina Lopez eventually led to her non-confirmation by the Commission on Appointments.
Too late is Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu’s halting of mining in eight provinces across the Philippines, after the death toll near quarrying or mining sites in Naga City, Cebu and in Itogon, Benguet climbed to at least 111.
Too late is the investigation that he launched to determine who are liable for the loss of lives and property.
Too late is Cebu Gov. Hilario III’s suspension of province-supervised quarrying.
These steps might prevent future mining and quarrying mishaps, but insofar as they cannot bring the dead back to life, undo damage already done or unbreak hearts, they come far too late.
We are, as a nation, multiple lives swallowed by the earth near quarries and mines, several wasted ecologies too late.
The landslides in Benguet and Cebu were original not in type, only in the breadth of the casualties. Accidents tied to anthropocene movement of earth have previously visited other provinces like Antique, Marinduque, and Masbate.
Even in terms of learning from such costly events, we are woefully late.
Amid such lethal tardiness, officials, public and private should do more than focus on shifting around blame or escaping accountability for the tragedies.
“We were saying over and over again, we should not desecrate the blessings we have from above,” said Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma, a staunch environment advocate. “People know that sooner or later, somehow, when we are reckless of the environment or we take it for granted, it will boomerang on us.”
Until that message truly gets into our heads and sinks into our hearts, there is nothing in our future land-wise but a vicious cycle of wrecked domains, quarrying, mining, landslides, deaths, injuries, grieving, investigations, sackings, dragging litigation, and business as usual.
Land resource laws may be refined again and again. But will their spirit and letter ever take root on the ground?
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