GREEN ADVOCATES REMIND PRESIDENT DUTERTE OF ENVIRONMENTAL TO-DO LIST (Widest Network of Environmental Advocates urge Duterte advocates to deliver on green commitments)

In a press conference held in Quezon City, environmental advocates
united once more to remind President Rodrigo Duterte the list of environmental
reforms he promised to initiate in the first 100 days of his presidency.
The Green Thumb Coalition, the widest coalition of more than 40 national
and local organizations advocating for a progressive environmental agenda, had
previously held dialogues with then-presidentiable Rodrigo Duterte, where he
clarified positions on several environment, governance and development issues.
“President Duterte has, in our engagements, professed his willingness to
work with the environmental sector and the rest of civil society in responding
to pressing green, climate and development issues,” said Norie Garcia of the
ABS-CBN Lingkod Kapamilya Inc. “While we welcome a lot of developments which
has already took place under his administration, a lot can still be done and
initiated in the last 30 days of the first hundred days of his presidency.”
Garcia noted that Duterte’s progressive pronouncements range from themes
of mining, biodiversity, renewable energy, climate justice, sustainable
agriculture, national land use, people-centered sustainable development, waste
and even human rights: the nine themes carried by the coalition during its
strides in mining lauded; climate justice, energy, human rights and other
environmental concerns stressed
Jaybee Garganera of Alyansa Tigil Mina (ATM) welcomed the mining audit
led by Department of Environmental and Natural Resources (DENR), which has
already resulted in the closing of 10 mines in various areas affected by
destructive large-scale mining.
“With Secretary Gina Lopez at the helm of the DENR, significant strides
have surely been made in the issue of mining,” Garganera further stated.
“However, a new framework of minerals management must be legislated to ensure
long-lasting and sustainable progress in the extractive industry,” he added.
Garganera noted that the immediate passage of the AMMB can be realized
if President Duterte certifies it as an urgent bill in Congress. Only stricter
policies and regulations on the extractive industries will be safeguarded
against the massive and continuing poverty and environmental-destruction
created by large-scale mining.
The creation of an “Environment Task Force” made up of various
departments in the Duterte Cabinet was also welcomed, albeit with
considerations. Center for Energy, Ecology and Development (CEED) Convenor stressed
the importance of incorporating energy in tackling issues of environment, and
the apparent absence of the Department of Energy (DOE) in the task force.
“The ongoing energy review under President Duterte’s administration must
consider the environmental and social cost of dirty energy, and yet so far, the
DOE has continually argued for the continued reliance on coal for the country’s
power mix,” said Arances. “We must collectively recognize that allowing new
coal mining and coal fired-power plants in the country will tie the Filipino
people into a technology which is already being phased out internationally,” he
Arances cited the recent Oxford study saying that increasingly,
coal-based technologies are deteriorating into liabilities rather than assets
because of the risks they pose to the environment and the economy, and given
that renewable energy is being pursued by more and more countries. He called on
the President-elect to lead in the transition towards increasing the share of
renewable energy in the power mix, which according to studies has decreased
over the span of 8 years, even with laws like the Renewable Energy Act of 2008
in place.
“We welcome the affirmation of the presumptive President regarding the
recent resolution from the Climate Change Commission to put
under review new and existing coal plants, we call on his administration
to implement a moratorium on the approval of new coal projects while
the review process is being implemented,” said Philippine Movement for Climate
Justice (PMCJ) National Coordinator Ian Rivera. “This is in line with his
agenda and commitment to stream-in renewable energy,” he added.
“While this is a positive step as the Philippines is among the most
vulnerable countries with regards to climate change and climate-induced disasters,
we implore the President to join us in demanding reparations from
industrialized countries for the disasters we continually face in the context
of climate change,” said Rivera, pointing out how the President Duterte has
repeatedly recognized the larger role of rich, industrialized countries in
contributing to climate change.
Thony Dizon of the Ecowaste Coalition lauded the move by the Duterte
administration to begin re-exporting illegal Canadian garbage shipped to the
Philippines. “We welcome this development and want to ensure that all 103
containers of Canadian garbage will be re-exported, not just the 50 shipping
containers specified by the Manila Regional Trial Court,” Dizon said.
Meanwhile, Dizon cautioned the Government into fast-tracking
Waste-to-Energy incineration projects which goes against the incineration ban
as contained in the Clean Air Act and Ecological Solid Waste Management Act.
“The present ‘Guidelines Governing the Establishment and Operation of
Wate-to-Energy Technologies for Municipal Solid Waste’ could open the floodgates
for costly and polluting incinerators to burn wastes, which could be reused,
recycled and composted instead of being burned,” said Dizon.
‘useless’ without human rights, groups say
Sanlakas Secretary-General Atty. Aaron Pedrosa raised the issue of
people-centered development and human rights in the press conference.
“While we recognize that there are many positive steps initiated by the
Duterte administration, we cannot ignore the issue of human rights which has
been a prevalent theme during the President’s first one hundred days,” Pedrosa
“Environmental rights are primarily, human rights. Positive environmental
developments are useless if civil liberties and collective human rights are
neglected. The Philippines currently ranks second in the list of countries with
the highest number of killings of environmentalists,” he added.
Pedrosa noted that issues regarding charter change, federalism and other
significant changes must be approached with significant consideration of the
widespread poverty and the people’s need for sustainable and people-centered
policies. “At present, President Digong’s plan for development still resembles
his predecessor’s development plan,” Pedrosa said.
Pedrosa encouraged the Head of State to review and revise his development
plan to ensure that human rights, dignity and well-being will not suffer in
favour of profit and a business-as-usual track of development. The Duterte
Government is at present in the process of revisiting the country’s Medium Term
Philippine Development Plan.

In addition to these action points derived from Duterte’s favourable
responses to issues of the environment, stricter policies on waste, land use
and biodiversity has also been supported by the Duterte administration, as well
as commitments on agriculture, fisheries and agrarian reform in favour of
marginalized sectors in society.