“May the Lord grant comfort to the peoples of South-East Asia, particularly Thailand and the Philippines, who are still enduring grave hardships as a result of the recent floods,” our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI said in his Christmas message “Urbi et Orbi.”
The floods in Cagayan de Oro, Iligan City and other parts of Mindanao left over a thousand dead and scores of families homeless. We sympathize with the victims as we all send over whatever assistance we could muster.
Indeed, solidarity must be the thrust of all our endeavours in the New Year 2012. Yes, for one, the challenge of climate change makes it imperative that everyone has got to do his or her share in whatever way possible for the preservation and protection of the environment. The floods in Mindanao and elsewhere showed how selfish illegal logging had made things worse for our peoples. More floods are even feared due to the clogging of rivers and streams with these cut logs.
Next to climate change, peace in our land still remains an ever elusive dream. Once again, stronger efforts to achieve peace with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the communist insurgents must be relentlessly pursued.
There’s no doubt that President Aquino’s direct meeting with MILF Chairman Al Haj Murad in Japan was a big boost for the on-and-off peace talks, but this was clearly negated almost instantly by the armed encounters afterwards that left a number of our soldiers dead and wounded. Photo-ops do not build peace, and we’ve had too many of these already for the last several decades.
A proven path to peace is development. As the cliché goes, it only takes one hungry stomach to start a revolution. And that’s the root cause actually of all the armed uprisings in our country.
But genuine development is not about dole outs. The “development” that we mean here is that where “every human person and all peoples [are entitled to] participate in, contribute to, and enjoy economic, social, cultural and political development, in which all human rights and fundamental freedoms can be fully realized.” (Art. 1, UN Declaration on the Right to Development) In short, solidarity.
This brings us back to our own insurgent-ridden Bikol. The Regional Social and Economic Trends for 2011 released by the National Statistical Coordination Board-Region 5 show a poverty incidence in percent of population remaining quite high at 45.1% in 2009 albeit down from 51.1% in 2006. This makes us the third poorest region in the country, just slightly better than ARMM at 45.9% and CARAGA region at 47.8%.
Indeed, one can only wonder why this is so when we have so many resources in our land, a great people, individual Bikolanos who have made it to national positions or have succeeded well in business and other pursuits here and abroad. It’s lack of Bikol solidarity for sure.
In sum, 2012 is about solidarity; be it local, national or even global.