Thursday, March 27, 2008

Comfort Islands, Comfort Country!

Remember the comfort women? These were young women abducted and forced to provide sexual services to Japanese soldiers in World War II. In the Philippines the issue was brought to fore when Lola Rosa Henson came out and told her story after one prominent historian declared that there were no comfort women in the Philippines.

The truth is that the Japanese government did officially sanction rape in World War II.

The Japanese government has never formally apologized for Japan's atrocities in World War II. The Japanese government also has not paid any damages to the women although a private foundation sponsored by the government has done so.

The comfort women are now passing away and are a perfect analogue on what's happening to the Philippine environment. It is not a foreign power that is officially sanctioning environmental rape but the Philippine Government!

Take for example the Philippines's mango isle of Guimaras. An Australian company has applied for a mining exploration permit in Nueva Valencia town. Now this town was heavily hit by the oil spill 2 years ago. The town has a forest reserve and the NIPAS listed Taklong Island Marine Reserve. The mining exploration area virtually covers the whole forest reserve and is directly adjacent to the marine reserve. The area also hosts Guimaras' best beaches and resorts. The Philippine Daily Inquirer has reported on the issue.


In a recent survey of Guimaras citizens, they favoured ecologically sustainable economic development. It is not suprising that townspeople and provincial government are obviously opposed. But according to them the Australian company has invoked the national government's preeminence in granting permits. According to several sources, the national government is inclined to issue the permit. Legal loopholes make it easy for the mining company to immediately go into full scale mining operations if mineral deposits are found on the island. Three other mining concerns have also applied for permits.

Now what do you call exploitation without consent? We call it rape. One definition of rape is "an act of plunder, violent seizure, or abuse; despoliation; violation" according to dictionary.com.

It is not surprising that the Macapagal-Arroyo administration's policy on natural resources has opened the various islands of the country to exploitation many against the wishes of the residents. The whole country has been turned into a giant "comfort station" with foreign interests funding the "exploration" and when the licence is granted, exploitation proceeds and when the land has been despoiled there is no way to repair the damage. It is like any woman victimized by rape, the scars remain forever.

This rape seems to have been elevated as a state policy of the Macapagal-Arroyo adminstration. We have become a comfort country. But who gets the comfort? Certainly not the majority of Filipinos.

While the reader may think that many Filipinos are just watching the rape and not doing anything, this isn't true.

A group of environmental lawyers have started to challenge the administration's policy of natural resource exploitation by arguing that this goes against the Constitution.

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