By Bong D. Fabe
CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY – Belgian visitors belonging to an international organization calling itself 11-11-11 visited Balay Mindanaw early in June and sat with some Sendong survivors and their support groups from civil society organizations to map out plans and programs on how to further help the survivors as well as make the communities resilient to the impact of climate change-induced and man-made disasters.
The visitors – Hanneke van Eklik Thieme, regional office coordinator, and Kris Vanslambrouck, partner relations coordinator; along with Jaybee Garganera, national coordinator of Alyansa Tigil Mina, and ATM SoS office Daniel Arias – tried to find out from personal accounts of the survivors and their support groups the factors that led to the Sendong tragedy as well as their opinions on how to prevent human-induced disasters spawned by natural phenomena from happening again in the city.
Thieme’s special area of responsibility is natural resources with a specific focus on mining while Vanslambrouk’s forte is on climate change and its impact. Many attributed the devastation wrought by Sendong – both to Cagayan de Oro and neighboring Iligan City – to the rampant illegal logging activities in the border towns of the two cities, particularly in Lanao del Sur; and the rampant mining and hydraulicking activities in the hinterland barangays of Cagayan de Oro, which caused the severe siltation of the Cagayan de Oro River and the Iponan River.
11-11-11, as the group is known, is a coalition of the Flemish North South Movement based in Belgium. It is the political umbrella of the Flemish NGOs and it uses the name 11-11-11 in honor of the signing of the treaty that ended World War I because “on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of 1918 the Allies and Germany signed the armistice at Compiegne, France.” The armistice took effect at eleven o’clock in the morning, officially ending the war. Armistice Day or Day of Remembrance is celebrated in Belgium as a special public holiday up to the present.
11-11-11 is among the hundreds of international groups and institutions that coursed through its humanitarian donations for the victims/survivors through Balay Mindanaw.
The 11-11-11 group also visited the various camps and talked with the evacuees.
11-11-11 is a very active member of the Belgian Climate Coalition, which consists of three kinds of groups: environmental groups (like WWF, Greenpeace etc.), the North-South Movement and socio-cultural organizations (including the unions). The group is one of the leading global voice in the call for social and climate justice, especially for those affected by the impact of climate change.
It is the organizer of the “Sing for the Climate (The Big Ask III),” whose objective is to gather as many people as possible in as many countries (and local areas) as possible to sing songs about the environment, especially about the climate in September. Films of the gathering all over the world will be shown to an international audience at the climate summit in Doha in December.