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The great sand robbery

DegeestThe Philippine Connection

By Jan J.I. Degeest

Everybody knows it: the Great Train Robbery. On August 8, 1963, a bunch of friends robbed the postal train, on his way from London to Glasgow (Great-Britain). Their loot: 2,600,000.00 British Pound, nowadays almost 156,000,000 PHP. It was then, and now an enormous amount.

Their robbery became legend, because of the perfect preparation and the fact that no firearms were used . A movie about the events followed, and a book. However, the criminals got caught and were sentenced to a 30-year prison punishment. The money was never found…. So, criminals can become heroes. The good they did will be forgotten, the evil will live on in our mind.

It reminds me of Dante Alighieri’s Hell and Purgatory, much more elaborated than his heaven. Mankind has always been fascinated by their dark side. On the other side, we want to believe in justice. Evil things do not pay, and at the end, punishment will follow, restating the balance between good and bad.

My beloved second home-country, my Lupang Hinirang, was again in the Belgian news this week. An article on black sand, the most promising basic
material for our 21th century needs: without sand no glass, no bottles, no computer chips, no construction. My friend Peter Dupont, an independent and very good journalist, published an article about the sand robbery going on in the Philippines…

Great international European, Singaporean and Chinese concerns, in their quest for sand. In the North of the Philippines, complete beaches have been sucked away by land grabbers. The sand is used for big building projects (two third of all concrete is sand based), for industry, or is transported to other countries like Singapore, where it is used to gain land over sea. The poor Filipinos, living near those beaches and surviving on fishery and hard, daily labor, are left alone, without any means of existence. My Bayang Magiliw, the chain of smaragd islands, will finally disappear if the International Community is incapable to take their responsibility.

Men play with the future of mankind. We do not know the consequences of the Fukushima meltdown yet. Many scientists believe that this sand robbery might be one of the causes for the recent disasters that struck Mindanao and Luzon. In any way, global warming will affect the lives of everybody living closer than one hundred kilometers from a beach, and that is almost every one in the Philippines. We need to take care of the heritage of our children and adapt our lifestyle, so future generations will be able to secure their future.

In Belgium, it is common to reuse your little plastic bags when shopping and buying groceries. Most of the supermarkets charge an extra five Eurocent (1Euro or 100 Cent equals 60 PHP) for the little plastic bags. You need to by a recycled bag, like the ones you can find in Save More or Gaisano. Doing shopping at my small daily vegetable and fish market in Talomo – Puan, my goods are packed in at least ten bags before I go back home. Useless rubbish that will be thrown in the sea. There need to be a legal obligation to sort our waste: glass, plastics, vegetable leafs: all is collected separately and recycled. For the sake of our children. It is not funny to do, but necessary….

Global efforts will be needed to save our mutual countries. Not only efforts from the governments, from our leaders or from our neighbors, but most of all from ourselves. Let us think about it. Ok? Salamat po!