By Kalikasan PNE
On the occasion of this year’s Earth Day, hundreds of Filipino environmentalists and peasants trooped to Mendiola today to condemn the response to the on-going drought spell in the country. The protesters who came from Metro Manila, Mindanao, Batangas, Cavite and Laguna highlighted the different environmentally destructive projects that have contributed to the layers of impacts of the El Nino-induced drought and the global climate crisis.
Pedro Arnardo of Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas – Southern Mindanao said “the drought impacts have further deepened the poverty and hunger of farmers in Kidapawan and many other parts of Mindanao. We still don’t have land to call our own, and seeds and water to start our farming again. Conversely, the government has provided full support like irrigation, subsidies, and land provision for foreign agro-corporations like Del Monte and Dole, who already own thousands of hectares of land at the expense of our communities and forests.”
These also make deforested areas and adjacent communities more prone to flashfloods and flooding. GAIA Environmental Information System reported that deforestation and land degradation are two of the major environmental issues in South- and South-East Asia. Conversion of forests into agricultural lands, urbanization, commercial logging and forest fires are among the major reasons for the degradation of natural resources in the region.
“The Aquino government should be held responsible for the current drought disaster. In 2014, weather bureau PAGASA has already predicted that the El Nino will cause intense drought, yet the government failed to prepare adequately to mitigate the drought’s effects. The people have thus been yoked both by the extreme climate impacts and the long-standing conversion of vast tracts of forests into agricultural plantations, mining areas and logging concessions,” said Clemente Bautista, national coordinator of the Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment (Kalikasan PNE).
The government has identified 21 provinces in 7 regions in 2014 that will be badly affected and may result to water, food and power shortages. This year, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council said that a total of 6 provinces, 12 cities and 17 municipalities have been put under a state of calamity because of the drought. As of March 2016, a total of 253,000 hectares of agricultural land were affected resulting in a loss of 384 thousand metric tons of agricultural crops, based on Department of Agriculture data.
Petti Enriquez of Bukal Batangas, which is leading a campaign against coal plant expansion in Batangas province said that “Both drought and pollution bring more hardships to our communities. The blistering heat caused by El Nino is aggravated further by the air and water pollution coming from coal power plants adjacent to our communities. Our agricultural harvest are consistently on a significant decline. At the same time, there is an increasing incidence of respiratory illnesses like asthma and cough, particularly among children.”
Bautista added that “until now, there is not enough relief given to the drought affected areas and families. While the government said that it has already released more than 1.2 billion pesos worth of assistance, we have heard no food assistance has been given to the affected areas in Metro Manila and regions in Luzon and Visayas. But worst of all, it continues to push for projects that will worsen the already climate vulnerable situation of people in these areas.”
“Big ticket projects like the coal power plant in Batangas, Quezon and Palawan, reclamation projects in Metro Manila and Laguna, big dam projects in Rizal, Iloilo and Nueva Vizcaya and expansion of large-scale mining in different areas will not only bring more environmental devastation and more community displacements, but will also worsen our vulnerabilities to climate change. After the El Nino drought, we should brace ourselves for the impacts of this environmental devastation coupled with the floods and rains of the forthcoming La Nina,” Bautista furthered.
Aquino called ‘hypocrite’ after signing Paris Climate Agreement
The groups also lambasted the recent formal signing of the Paris Climate Agreement by Department of Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Ramon Paje along with other representatives of around two hundred countries. The Paris Agreement is an international climate agreement which compells countries to keep the global temperature rise below 2 degrees Celsius by the end of the century.
“The Aquino government remains hypocritical on their stand on climate change. While it commits that the PH will reduce our carbon emissions by 70% by 2030, it still allows the proliferation of coal power plants in the country. By 2020, 39% of our power will come from dirty coal power plants,” said Zeph Repollo of 350.org Pilipinas, a climate activist movement.
Kalikasan PNE noted that the Aquino adminstration has approved 47 coal power projects construction from 2014 up to 2020. Under Aquino’s term, carbon emissions from coal power sources have increased by 30%. It has also inaugurated at least three new coal power plants under its adminstration.
“If all approved coal projects will be realized, an estimated total of 60 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions will be released by 2025. Then how can we contribute to keeping global temperature below 2 degrees Celsius? We are still not calculating the contribution of carbon emission because of forest denudation, and vegetation lost due to logging and commercial mining. BS Aquino is through and through climate liar,” ended Bautista.#
Reference: Clemente Bautista, 09054325211