Days before the world celebrates the 2017 commemoration of Earth Day, the Ecological Challenge for Change coalition, an alliance composed of 40 different environmental and people’s organizations, laid out a ‘hexathlon’ of six priority environmental actions for the Duterte administration.
The coalition highlighted the Duterte government’s continuing positive efforts on large-scale mining, Laguna Lake fisheries, toxic wastes, and sustainable agriculture, but also called out worsening problems on dirty energy and environment-related killings.
According to Clemente Bautista, national coordinator of Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment, “the historic large-scale mining closure, suspension, and agreement cancellation orders under Duterte are major steps towards preserving our ecosystems from ridge to reef and conserving our national patrimony. Duterte should take greater effort in enforcing this crackdown on large-scale mines and repudiating efforts by large-scale mining apologists to sabotage this long-needed regulation.”
On the efforts to remove destructive fishpens in Laguna Lake, Anna Saplor, spokesperson of the Metro Manila-based group NILAD, said “initial efforts to remove especially the large-scale fishpens from such an important water body for our region have been commendable. The cleanup of Laguna Lake should be stepped-up while being extra careful not to affect our small fisherfolk communities who serve as the frontline stewards of the lake.”
Anna Kapunan, campaigns and advocacy specialist of BAN Toxics, said that “though the Duterte administration through DENR has made moves towards sustainable development, we would like to see more comprehensive policies on chemicals and waste management, as well as the strict implementation of existing policies against hazardous chemicals.
“In particular, we look forward to the ratification of the Minamata Convention which can protect our country from the inflow of toxic mercury. We would also like to see a ban on mercury in elementary and secondary schools to protect our children’s health from more mercury spills. Finally, this administration should direct its political will towards the long overdue shipping back of the Canada waste,” Kapunan furthered.
Shen Maglinte, deputy director of Sibol ng Agham at Teknolohiya or SIBAT, explained that “while the DAR freeze order on land-use conversion and other laudable initiatives for sustainable agriculture have been initiated, we see no significant changes in policy as regards sustainable measures for food security. Agriculture’s corporatization tract, which includes chemical farming and opening the floodgates to GMO crops already eliminated in some developed countries, remains a challenge that Duterte can still address.”
Citing the business-as-usual path of the dirty energy industry, Lia Alonzo, research and advocacy program officer of the Center for Environmental Concerns – Philippines, said that “while we applaud Duterte’s position on ensuring people’s access to electricity and spurring industrialization, there are cleaner and safer energy sources that are fast becoming economically viable. The pronouncements and programs by the Duterte administration on continuing the pursuit of developing coal, nuclear and other dirty energy projects must be reversed to prevent us from incurring further social, heath, and environmental costs from these power sources.”
The groups also raised alarm on the unabated environment-related killings, which have already amounted to at least 16 cases under the current administration.
Kalikasan PNE’s Bautista said that “Duterte must take decisive action to stem the continuing militarization especially against frontline communities opposing environmentally destructive projects. Double effort must be taken by the Duterte administration to stop the worsening impunity against environmental defenders.”
Overall, Eco-Challenge has rated the Duterte administration to have continued pursuing positive initiatives in eight (8) out of 14 environmental agendas, which also include socio-economic and environmental reforms through peace talks, logging, disasters and climate change, and appointing pro-environment officials. On the other hand, the coalition rated Duterte’s performance to be needing improvement in the remaining six, which included reclamation, reforestation, foreign militarism, and pro-environment policies.#