Today's Punto
Today's Punto
Call it progress
By Bong Lacson

Mar 07, 2017

IT’S BEEN awhile since this promdi went to the Big City but while traversing NLEx this Saturday past, the feeling was that the city has already come to me. To my utter dismay.

Aghast was I upon the approach to San Simon town to see encroaching brown to where once was expansive green: dusty earth dumped by massive trucks, pushed by bulldozers to fill once virtual lagoons teeming with water hyacinths sheltering the fish and other aquatic life that lie beneath the waters – paradise gained and regained year after year by migratory birds. Paradise beginning to be irretrievably lost to industrialization.

It’s been ages since I last passed Quezon Road in San Simon, but on Sunday I drove through it, being the fastest route from the son’s newly acquired mango farm in Sta. Ana to the old folks’ home in Sto. Tomas, bypassing the gridlocked Mexico-San Fernando stretch of the GSO Road.

Named such because it made the usual, aye, the only, way the tubercular president of the Philippine Commonwealth had taken for his prescribed salubrious splash at the cold spring waters of Mount Arayat, Quezon Road was widened and concreted at the time of the now dearly lamented Gov. Bren Z. Guiao to spur socioeconomic development in then insurgency-ridden eastern Pampanga.

Indeed, as Guiao foresaw it, development did come. But how!

Don Manolo would have surely spewed a torrent of his patented “Puñeta!” had he lived to be chauffeured through his eponymous road today.

The vast wetlands and verdant rice fields the road once traversed have vanished untraceably under the weight and breadth of factories and warehouses identically humongous, uniformly hideous.

The once less travelled road – where the carabao cart and then the tricycle were kings – now a busy dusty street narrowed by the bulk of trucks and lorries of all tonnage; the hulk of heavy equipment in all shapes, sizes and states of dilapidation by the wayside, haphazardly stockpiled for the smelting plants.

The sweet smell of fruiting palay, the quaint but pleasant aroma of water plants of the remembered past totally obliterated by the noxious, billowing smoke of industrial chimneys and dust.

Nauseated yet at this narrative this far?

Not by any means, were you the local government of San Simon.

Where any other human sees environmental degradation, the LGU only sees economic progress.

Why, even the suffocating dust from all that earth dumped on wetlands to provide stable ground for factories, smells all-too-sweetly of money, oodles and oodles of it.

Or haven’t you heard as yet the voices howling in the quarry wastelands proclaiming a Simonian – as the municipality identifies its citizens – as the crowned Tambac King of all Pampanga, exercising exclusive, if not proprietary, rights over all filling materials in the province. Gratuitous permits either unenforced, or simply recycled. Ay, absolutely no relation to childish Simple Simon Says in this high-stakes game.

Why, it is even bruited about – sans hard facts though – that the plunder of the provincial quarry coffers – pre-Panlilio governorship – amounts but to loose change if ranged against the pantambac windfall.

A matter of fact: It is acknowledged that the significant growth in San Simon was brought about by the Comprehensive Municipal Development and Land Use Plan enacted by the Municipal Council. The zoning ordinance reclassified the entire stretch of Quezon Road as Industrial and Commercial Zone, but limited only to light and medium size industries and those that are environmental friendly. Copypasted from but underscoring mine.

More a factoid there, to say the least. Given the scope and scale of the industrial locators in the area and their not-so-subtly deleterious impact to the local environment.

Why, ask Gina Lopez’s agency in Pampanga where complaints of pollution mostly emanate from. And find the answer in the ridiculous riddle in our child play: “I passed the sun, the sea and finally the moon, where am I?”

I can only cry with the Cree: “Only when the last tree has been cut down, only after the last river has been poisoned, only after the last fish has been caught, only then will we realise we cannot eat money.”

Meanwhile, last week Bureau of Customs agents seized P2 billion worth of fake cigarettes in five warehouses at the San Simon Industrial Park along Quezon Road. The cigarettes also had fake stamps and were all identical, the news report said.

Yeah, progress all spelled there.

Puñeta! The Castila would have surely spat out.

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