Various environmental groups called on recently-proclaimed Philippine President Benigno Simeon “Noynoy” Aquino III to implement fundamental reforms to protect the environment.
Greenpeace challenged president-elect Noynoy Aquino to be the “greenest” Philippine head of state.
“Noynoy’s term comes at the most crucial years when the world we live in must be secured for succeeding generations: this is the time when all countries must work together to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to avert the worst impacts of climate change, preserve the world’s last remaining forests, secure the world’s food supply, and avert global water scarcity predicted by experts to arrive in the coming decade,” said Beau Baconguis, Greenpeace Southeast Asia campaigner..
Greenpeace called on Aquino to live up to his promise made on Earth Day last April, to strictly enforce environmental laws, and to prioritize policies that will ensure clean energy, clean water, and safe food for the country.
The group applauded Aquino’s campaign promise to bring about “a government that will encourage sustainable use of resources to benefit the present and future generations.”
Last March, Greenpeace and EcoWaste Coalition conducted the Green Electoral Initiative (GEI) survey among the presidential candidates to determine where each of them stood on environment issues that affect the everyday lives of Filipinos.
In the survey, Aquino indicated that he supports a shift to clean energy and technologies.
The group said that that this should translate to putting a halt to investments in fossil fuels, particularly coal, one of the biggest drivers of climate change.
They also said that while Aquino has declared that he is against the revival of the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP), he wavers on the issue of nuclear energy in general. “He must realize that nuclear energy is not considered ‘clean energy’ and should not be part of the energy mix in the Philippines because it takes away money that should be invested into safe renewables,” Baconguis said.
In the survey, Aquino indicated that he supports organic agriculture and other environment-friendly food production technologies.
“In the case of safe food for Filipinos, we sincerely hope that genetically-engineered rice or GMO (genetically-modified) rice will not be approved under Noynoy’s term as this will reverse any advances in sustainable agriculture that we are sure he would want to support,” Baconguis asserted.
She also underscored the need for public participation, transparency, and accountability in governance. “We expect that during Aquino’s term, right-to-know legislation in terms of chemical use should be a priority as this will ensure that pollution is reduced with the help of communities actively engaged in pollution monitoring.”
“We will also urge him to create a groundbreaking policy of zero discharge where toxic chemicals are concerned.”
Groups Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment (Kalikasan PNE), Kalipunan ng Katutubong Mamayang Pilipino (KAMP), fisherfolk federation Pambansang Lakas ng Mamalakaya sa Pilipinas (PAMALAKAYA), environmental research group Center for Environmental Concerns (CEC Phils.), and scientist group Advocates of Science and Technology for the People (AGHAM), said that the first thing Aquino must do is to prosecute outgoing president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
Kalikasan PNE’s Clemente Bautista Jr. said that Arroyo’s top environmental crimes include the liberalization of the mining industry, privatization of energy resources, massive deforestation for corporate production, lack of disaster preparedness and climate change adaptation program, selling of agricultural lands for biofuel production, and political killings of environmental activists.
Kalikasan documented 27 environmental activists killed, two victims of enforced disappearance, and one case of attempted murder.
“The first thing that Aquino needs to do is to prosecute those who are liable for carrying out projects and policies that resulted to the destruction and plunder of the country’s natural resources,” said Bautista.
The groups urged Aquino to conduct an investigation and form a commission that will prosecute the environmental crimes of Arroyo.
The groups called on Aquino to declare a 100-day moratorium on approving mining projects, coal-fired power plant projects, and mega-dams.
Indigenous group KAMP particularly called for the nullification of a Memorandum Order 2010-04 issued by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) aiming to fast track the issuance of mining contracts and permits from 15 week to a shorter period of 10 weeks.
The order is part of Arroyo’s National Mining Policy (NMP) that aims to “revitalize” the mining industry. Included in the NMP is the creation of the so-called Mining Priority Project (MPP) which includes 64 mining sites to be offered to prospective foreign mining investors. KAMP said that of the 64 MPPs, 39 can be found in the rich ancestral land of the indigenous people all over the country.
“The fragile Philippine environment where indigenous people live in and protected will suffer most from this memorandum,” said KAMP’s Pia Malayao.
KAMP also called for the implementation of a genuine reforestation program and the cancellation of large commercial logging permits.
They groups also called for the cancellation of contracts or environment compliance certificate (ECC) of what they described as “environmentally destructive and controversial projects” such as the Rapu-rapu polymetallic mining project, Didipio gold mining project, and San Mateo Landfill Project.
They also urged the review of the Japan-Philippine Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA), US-RP Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), and the Mining Act of 1995 which they deemed as anti-environment policies. JPEPA allows the dumping of toxic wastes from Japan into the Philippines while the VFA is silent about the ban on the entry of nuclear weapons. The Mining Act of 1995, on the other hand, allows destructive mining activities.
They suggested that Aquino formally communicate to the United States government the people’s demand for responsibility, justice, and compensation for the toxic contamination in the former US military bases in the Philippines.
They also demanded the replacement of DENR Secretary Horacio Ramos with an individual with proven track record in environmental protection and conservation.
The environmental groups also urged Aquino to certify as urgent bill the House Bill 5840 or Anti- Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPP) Act of 2009. A SLAPP is any legal action filed by big corporations, high public officials, or individuals against non-governmental organizations, people’s organizations, local residents, community groups, and individuals in an attempt to intimidate the latter into discontinuing their opposition and criticisms against any initiative of the former that adversely affects public interest and welfare.
Kalikasan PNE has recorded more than 110 individuals facing SLAPP cases in court. Most of the killings and SLAPP cases involve activists opposing big mining and logging projects.
“Incoming president Noynoy Aquino faces a colossal task since the previous administration has left the Philippine environment in a chronic state of crisis but president-elect Aquino needs to step up to his promises and to the demands of the nation who have long clamored for genuine national progress and healthy environment,” Bautista said.
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