I would love to be positive about the stricter wildlife protection rules in UP and the increased awareness on wildlife protection in the public, especially in the social media sphere, as a result of the Black Bittern killing in the UP Lagoon.
But beyond the concerned citizens that reported the incident and pursued the issue to ensure enforcement, some quarters are quick to dismiss the angle of the urban poor foragers; some are even wont to vilify the perpetrators.
That is exactly the reason why this is also an invitation to reflect on urban poor issues in the Philippines, not just a lesson learned on animal welfare. What social conditions enculturated them to browse for food instead of just buy them? Bakit nila kailangan ng inuman–kung kaya naghahanap sila ng pulutan, kung yun ang kaso dito?
Bakit wala silang kaalam-alam sa batas hinggil sa proteksyon ng mga hayop? Bakit wala silang kaalam-alam sa importansya ng mga ibon sa ekosistema in the first place?
Did we bother to ask these questions? Or were we contented with the fact that, whichever way authorities will decide, these animal killers will be dealt with accordingly? Going on a theoretical limb: what if it was a disaster survivor that caught any fauna for their desperate subsistence? Do the rules apply still?
The ‘urban poor’ lens, to me, is an important facet of studying–and changing–humanity’s relationship with its environment. It is the very reason why small-scale miners are always being vilified as the prime polluters in the mountains, or why the small fisherfolk are always to blame for the depletion of marine resources.
It is also the reason why we are grossly misinformed of the pros and cons of subsistent swidden agriculture, or misattribute small loggers with the massive deforestation we have faced and continue to face. Why are the small people always the most convenient culprits to blame, to make an example of? What about the big business polluters and plunderers? Where are our outcries against OceanaGold mining corporation in Nueva Vizcaya, where hornbills and other rare fauna are being displaced by their continuous operations?
Ang nakakainis pa, may nabasa pa akong komento na pinipintas ang kilusang estudyante ngayon. Bakit daw walang ‘Occupy Central in Hong Kong’ style ng pagkilos ngayon para sa ganitong mga isyu, puro hooliganism nalang daw? I’m sorry, those are apples and oranges, among so many things wrong about such a presumptuous statement.
Whenever we get these ‘small victories’ for wildlife conservation and protection, I cannot help but be frustrated how it always plays out like this. In the end, it is always the people in the margins that continue to be condemned in the margins, even in such issues as the environment.
Note: these views are entirely personal and does not reflect the views of my organization.