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ART ATTACK

Art groups, CSOs unveil environmental art project to save Gubat Bay in Sorsogon

“This artistic collaboration with the people who are directly affected by the coastal road project, aims to amplify their demands to our local government to prioritize the welfare of the local fishery communities and economies dependent on them.”

Members of  various art groups, multi-sectoral coalitions, and civil society organizations launched the Sorsogon Initiatives for Culture and Arts Development (SICAD) project with the goal to “kick-off” a series of collective and creative actions to highlight the impacts of destruction of natural resources of Balud Del Norte-Cota Na Daco-Cogon Coastal Road and Shore Protection project in Gubat, Sorsogon. 

According to Msgr. Francisco Monje, the lead convenor of 1SAMBAYAN Sorsogon Chapter and president of  Kasanggayahan Foundation, Inc., fisherfolks along the coastal barangays of Gubat, Sorsogon will also be forced to move out of their homes due to the road construction project.

“Our communities are currently facing a threat of destruction due to a coastal road project that would kill the biodiversity of the area such as trees, mangroves, and reefs including fish, crab, and turtle spawning grounds. This may also cause substantial socio-economic losses and dislocation of the population and change of livelihood. Moreover, high levels of carbon emissions and pollution will  soar once our coasts become thoroughfares. Is  this the kind of precedent we are setting for urban development in the country? What is the use of development if it is not for the broader public good? ” Monje said.

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Large construction boulders are marked with the words: SAVE GUBAT BAY as an act of the community to take back what belongs to them. Note: Non-toxic water based paint was used on this rock

The SICAD community art project started on April 9-21, 2022 through lectures, art workshops, and art productions, which was joined by participants under the Save Gubat Bay Movement (SGBM) composed of different sectoral organizations representing the fisherfolks and crab farmers (Cota na Daco Crablet Workers, Samahan Alay sa Kalikasan Cooperative, Alyansa san mga Parasira san Sorsogon, Sorsogon King Crab Association Inc.) of Gubat, Sorsogon. The said event, led by artists from the Concerned Artists of the Philippines Bicol Chapter, Kurit-Lagting Art Collective, and  Sorsogon Arts Council, covered topics on banner making, sail painting, and installation art production carrying the calls to highlight the destruction of natural resources that will cause additional hardship to the livelihood and economy of the entire community. 

The culminating activity was held at Calayucay Beach, Sitio Gumang, Brgy. Cota na Daco, in Gubat, Sorsogon, which unveiled the outputs made during the workshops and featured performances, banner and sail parade, exhibit, music, poetry, film showing, and discussions.

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“This artistic collaboration with the people who are directly affected by the coastal road project, aims to amplify their demands to our local government to prioritize the welfare of the local fishery communities and economies dependent on them,” said visual artist and Sorsogon Arts Council member, Rico Estrellado.

For community leader Lorna “Manay Ising” Gallardo, the community art project is a testament to their hopes and struggles. “Naaraman mi na may-on nin dianisun na paagi kun papan-o man namo maibalangibog bagaw yaa na mga namamatean tungkol dini sa problema na konstraksyon. Mao na ngani yaa na pagpurupinta nan kurit-kurit. Naghiringuha na kami na magkasarayu na makahuman nin obra tungkol sa mga tagu-tago na kaborot-on nan istorya sa bongto mi (We learned that there are other ways to voice out our concerns and art is one of these. Collaboration is the key in creating artworks to help tell our stories for all to understand),” she said.

Using recyclable materials, coco cloth, and non-toxic, water-based paints, participants were able to make banners and sails complete with illustrations, statements, and calls which were then mounted on make-shift bamboo frames. Community members also utilized found objects and indigenous materials  to create installation art pieces that reflected the people’s awareness, engagement, participation through art and strengthened people’s connection to their place.

Artists and community members during the lectures and art workshops. The said events also observed proper COVID-19 Health and Safety Protocols to ensure  and make everyone aware of the evolving community transmission risk
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Kurit-Lagting Artists put finishing touches on the banners and sails; and a “Save Gubat Bay ” sign was spray painted on a rock boulder using non-toxic water-based paint

“We created several artworks that visualize the impacts of the road project  to the coastal ecosystem and biodiversity. The  process of the installation art allowed others to be participants to create a space for discussion about issues and concerns in the community while the images on the banners and sails tell stories of refuge, displacement, and migration and we really want to show that these might happen here,” added Allan Abrigo and Choi Carretero, co-founders of Kurit-Lagting Art Collective.

In a petition filed by Save Gubat Bay Movement  at change.org, the said coastal road project failed to go through proper public consultation with stakeholders as no evaluation, assessment and study on the impact of the coastal road was released to the public. The petition also  cited that the  coastal road project is a false solution to the climate crisis as  the local government has never done any comprehensive study regarding such concern  and that no economic benefits  were ever presented for communities directly affected by the project.

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Community members preparing the banners and sails for the parade and exhibit
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“Kami na mga parasira an mao na apektado suun na proyekto na wara man kasiguruhan para sa amo. Mao na ini an kinamulatan mi na lugar, dini na din bagaw ang amo na pagkabuhay. Pagpinadagus yadi na coastal, mawawaraan  talaga kami (We, as fisherfolks, are among the most affected by misplaced priorities. This is our common home and if the coastal road project pushes through, we would lose our source of livelihood and we would have nothing),” said Rofe “Ar-Ar” Doncillo, one of the affected residents of the coastal road project. 

According to studies, more than a million animal and plant species are presently endangered, with several facing extinction within decades as human actions have profoundly impacted three-quarters of the land-based ecosystem and around 66 % of the marine environment.

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Recently, Bayan Muna lawmakers also filed the House Resolution 2534 pushing for inquiry on socio-economic, and environmental impact of the said coastal road project.

The said house resolution was borne out of the illegal move of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) in initiating project implementation without an Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC) issued by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR). It was an illegal move since DPWH clearly violated Presidential Decree 1586. The coastal road project was temporarily stopped by the DENR, advisory/instruction of which was relayed by the environmental agency during its Virtual Technical Conference (attended by DPWH, SGBM, DENR – Sorsogon, 1Sambayan-Sorsogon) on February 16, 2022.

“Climate change is caused by human invasions on the environment. If we allow our common home to succumb to development aggression such as this coastal road project, we also allow a monumental ecological disaster to happen,” said Allan Espallardo of Save Gubat Bay Movement.

“We hope that through our community art project, we can inform and communicate to the public the struggles of the people living along the Gubat coastline. More importantly, is to collectively demand from our policymakers and government leaders for accountability, that  this road project clearly has serious consequences on people’s rights, health, food, and livelihoods,” ended JC Jamoralin of the Concerned Artists of the Philippines Bicol Chapter.

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