Columban missionary Fr. Shay Cullen’s columns are published in The Manila Times, in publications in Ireland, the UK, Hong Kong, and on-line.) http://www.preda.org/archives/2008/r08082001.html
A few weeks ago, I was visiting a resettlement community of 40 families on the shore of Subic Bay, North West of the capital Manila. Here, is a fishing community that once lived a life of basic self-sufficiency. Their fishing village was flattened and made way for the construction of the biggest ship building yard in the Philippines by the Korean giant “Hanjin” Industries costing about US $1.68 Billion and to be finished by 2011. “Hanjin” has already launched its first ship last 4 July, 2008 and has a backlog of 33 more large ships. It is preparing to build another ship yard in Cagayan de Oro, Northern of Mindanao.
The first payment to resettle the fishing community by “Hanjin” to the mayor of Subic Town was 18 million pesos or US $406,549. It was squandered amid allegations of corruption and left the 400 families in slum like conditions without proper water or electricity, or access to their beach and boats. Nor were they paid. The ship yard is still being built 24 hours a day on 349 hectares of land from which the community was ejected.
But the village remained in state of stricken poverty, cut off from the sea, the beach and their boats. Living on a hill side, they were left in abject poverty with no livelihood. Unskilled, they got few jobs at the huge ship yard that had dispossessed them by government mandate. Good Christians, who put action for social justice and human dignity at the forefront of their belief in Jesus of Nazareth and his “message on the mount”, spoke out against the injustice and campaigned for positive change. Unmoved by the light of the community but stung by the criticism of their failed resettlement plan, “Hanjin” gave a new funding for a resettlement community and given to the Catholic charity that pivoted low cost housing for the poor throughout the Philippines.
Yet many problems remain. The community needs electricity and a way to pay for it, nearby estuary could be developed to give them access to the bay and to fishing. A new non-government organization (NGO) namely “Task force Hanjin” has brought educational and medical missions to the community. They need help to organize themselves into a force for their own community development.
“Hanjin” meanwhile spent as much as US $20 million on constructing staff housing as it is called but consists of two condominium structures of ten and twenty stories tall and right in the center of the pristine Subic Rain forest. The condos raised huge controversy as the construction began without the proper environmental clearance as required by law. The area is also classified as protected by the presidential proclamation No. 926 by President Corazon Aquino made 15, June 1992.
However the law is never a hindrance to any scheme or a project wherein officials themselves and their family or cronies will benefit for circumventing it or simply ignoring the law. As one Filipino blogger wrote: “For Hanjin to have built these monstrosities is a desecration of our national patrimony.”
Besides the boon in jobs which are very welcome – but the wages are low and even exploitative – hunger is the great silencer. Few will bite the hand that feeds them and there are no unions allowed. The working conditions are dangerous and life threatening. Safety lapses have caused the deaths of at least 12 workers since operation began in 2006. “Hanjin” has offered engineering scholarships to college students but with binding strings attached that are long contracts for low wages. Few accepted.
Now comes the coal fired power plant to be built close to “Hanjin” to supply its electricity needs and with it a host of environmental problems which have been ignored by those in power and in industry.
Unless they have state-of-the art filters and scrubbers to control the polluting smoke and gases and control of the coal stock pile and safe storage of fly ash, we could be soon having an environmental disaster and adding to global warming and climate change. What a nightmare, is the cost worth the industrial development? END
Visit www.preda.org for more related articles.