Bardiness

"..a bardy view!"

Philippine Land Grab – disguised as eco-tourism

 

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Jacques Cousteau the famous explorer and conservationist once described Palawan as the last frontier. For good reason. Here was an archipelago of outstanding natural beauty, and he, more than most, understood that protection was the legacy for future generations.

So how does big businesses, and big property developers, justify their mercenary exploitation of the unspoilt?

To them, natural beauty is a golf course waiting to happen, a resort complex, and an emporium squatted by retail multi-nationals selling designer goods.

They do it by dressing it up as sustainable eco-tourism. The catch all phrase. The tart with a heart. Conservationist capitalism. Mercenary magnanimity. Philippine Profitable Philanthropy.

Ayela Land Inc (ALI) intend to build (purely for altruistic motives of course) a “100-hectare development that shall feature hotels and resorts, tourism and commercial establishments and residential communities with world-class amenities that blend with the natural landscape.”

These are not Cinderella’s, but the ugly sisters which squeeze their feet into jewelled slippers. Convinced that any fit is better than none, and an ounce of blood is worth shedding – even if a scar is the result. After all surely any commercial enterprise which aids the economy is better than none? Right? Wrong!

100 hectares is a substantial chunk of real estate, the first 25 hectares is to become the Lio Beach Village “featuring bed and breakfasts, resorts, shops and dining establishments amid civic spaces” which will be developed by Ten Knots Development Corp, which just happens to be a subsidiary of Ayala Land Inc. (The parent. Keep it in the family!)

This has naturally been lauded and applauded by the Philippines Department of Tourism, whose secretary Ramon R. Jimenez Jr. describes it as “a new jewel of sustainable tourism in the Philippines.” Note the word sustainable – synonymous with ecology and conservation. These are the key words which mask the reality. Cousteau will be turning in his grave.

The problem with the Philippines however is that in a land with over 7000 islands it’s surprisingly difficult to find a free beach. Most pieces of beach, be it white sand, black sand, or volcanic sand is owned by someone, who charge money just for the privilege of sitting on one. A resort takes away the freedom, and more importantly removes the locals. Especially the fisherman, who will no doubt be expected to pay a premium just to sail out and sail in – with a catch or not!

That’s not progress, that is exploitation, and it is ruthless because it has the support of the government, whose raison d’etre is not sustainability or culture, but greed and the fast buck.

You see, resorts are victims of the global economy i.e. how many bangs for the buck! It’s a volatile and precarious business, and when a downturn happens the infrastructure suffers, people lose jobs (non jobs associated with service: rooms, restaurants, etc totally dependant on the number of visitors) and invariably when the bottom falls out, the land is sold on. It’s a downward spiral, which cuts into the very ecology which was promoted in the first place. The land has been raped and the agriculture such as coconut trees, bananas, and most indigenous farming and fishing are lost.

What the Philippines government should be doing, and is always decidedly incapable of, is investment in the people. Ensuring that they have proper sustainable employment, encouraging and maintaining the skills that have been garnered over a thousand years, and if necessary subsidising them, because investing in the people and caring for their greatest asset – the land and the seas around it – will ensure worth, value and ultimately self sufficiency with profits all round. Technology may be the future, but a reputation of being the call-centre capital of South East Asia doesn’t really cut the mustard. Like India it will only exist for cheap labour and the service industry.

UNESCO have been threatening for the past five years that the famed rice terraces of the Cordilleras are losing their integrity and will inevitably lose their status as a world heritage site. The terraces which are unique, have been farmed and maintained by skilled tribal people for over two thousand years. They argue that “the terraced landscape is highly vulnerable because the social equilibrium that existed in the rice terraces for the past two millennia has become profoundly threatened by technological and evolutionary changes. Rural-to-urban migration processes limit the necessary agricultural workforce to maintain the extensive area of terraces.”

In simple English this means that the young generation are not following in their fathers and forebears footprints and heading to Manila to seek their fortune. Between the lines it also says that this “migration” makes the land redundant, cannot be sustained, not fit for purpose and therefore prime targets for commercial land grabbers. If you want to know what that is and the horrors it produces, just go to the city in the sky: Baguio – where concrete is king.

A responsible government should be sustaining it’s heritage, not destroying it systematically for short term financial profit, nor pandering to wealthy developers whose hearts are purely mercenary, and leave a legacy of shame, exploitation and avarice.

It will get worse before it gets better – but time is running out, and it will have probably ran out before the people of the Philippines wake up – perpetually somnambulist – perpetually sleepwalking – and whilst they sleep, the politicians, the investment bankers, the fund managers and the speculators are wide awake – singing, celebrating and dancing obscenely on the land!

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April 14, 2014 - Posted by | Coconut Trees, Conservation, Culture, Current Affairs, Education, Politics, The Philippines, Travel | , , , , , ,

2 Comments »

  1. I couldn’t agree with you more about sustaining the land and often wonder just how and why today’s politicians have got where they are. Something smells and it is a putrid one.

    Like

    Comment by spookmoor | April 15, 2014 | Reply

  2. Had another read and as always impressed with your eloquence and long may it live.

    Like

    Comment by spookmoor | March 21, 2016 | Reply


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