MANILA, AUGUST 13, 2011 (TIMES) Written by : ANABELLE E. PLANTILLA REMINDING - President Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III of his avowed “Social Contract” and policy statement during his first State of the Nation Address (SONA) that promised the protectioMATUWIDn of the environment, members of the Green Convergence for Safe Food, Healthy Environment and Sustainable Economy (Green Convergence) urged the President to take charge and make true his promises to lead the nation towards the path of sustainable development by conserving and protecting the country’s natural resources.

Green Convergence is composed of more than 50 networks and groups from the environmental, social and religious movements. In an annual gathering of Green Convergence through its State of Nature Assessment or Green SONA, the group said President Aquino may be partly fulfilling his “contract” through the promulgation of some executive orders and programs but either they are not implemented adequately or are contradicted by other major policy directions.

They cited that while President Aquino issued a moratorium on the cutting of trees in natural forests the executive order exempted areas for mining and those to be prepared for plantations. Furthermore, illegal logging remains largely unabated in the Sierra Madre. Though he inaugurated the Renewable Energy Program to fight climate change he also inaugurated coal-fired power plants that are highly contributive to climate change. Though the Department of Agriculture under the present leadership has promoted organic agriculture the official policy remains anchored on modern biotechnology moving towards genetically engineered crops.

Green Convergence also strongly urged PNoy to forcefully enforce the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act. Dr. Angelina P. Galang, founder of the Green Convergence, challenged the President to take charge and honor his environmental commitments to the nation that he has explicitly stated all too often.

As members of the Green Convergence recited their incisive assessment of President Aquino’s positive inputs that are matched against the wider contradictory policies, they enumerated their following demands that should be the contents of his social contract in protecting the environment. The list is really not long. In fact, these are earlier promises of past administrations that were not kept.

The first is a moratorium on mining applications and approvals until a national industrialization plan is formulated that would rationalize the industry in terms of what and where minerals should be mined. This issue has kept government, the mining industry and civil society consistently at odds as there is no clear road map on the extractives industry.

The group also asks for strong forest protection and economic programs for forest communities that will make them stakeholders in forest protection. The current National Greening Program may be a start but it needs fine tuning as the concept of forest restoration is rather weak and fool proof ways of ensuring that communities benefit and care for the forest are in place.

Meaningful engagement with Indigenous Peoples (IP) with acknowledgement that their culture makes them the best stewards of the forest is another ask. For decades, our IPs have been battling loggers and miners for desecrating their sacred grounds, destroying the forests that feeds and harbors them and throwing them out of their ancestral lands. This still continues particularly with the aggressive promotion of mining by our government.

Our country has been experimenting with genetically-modified organisms (GMO) for the past few years especially Bt corn planting and field testing of other genetically modified crops. This has to stop until and when they are proven safe for humans and the environment. This goes against the precautionary principle which states that if an action or policy has a suspected risk of causing harm to the public or to the environment, in the absence of scientific consensus that the action or policy is harmful, the burden of proof that it is not harmful falls on those taking the action.

With regard to energy, Green Convergence rejects the use of nuclear power with finality and proposes a transition to 100 percent renewable energy that has been shown to be able to supply all our energy needs way into the future.

Sound policy is the framework of good governance, thus, the enactment of the National Land Use Management Act, Forest Resources Bill and Minerals Management Bill should be a priority.

Finally, a review of Philippine involvement in the Clean Development Mechanisms and REDD + should be immediately undertaken until and when this carbon trading schemes show their effectiveness in reducing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and not just increasing profits of rich nations. Going green means reaping the benefits of development that is inclusive and equitable.   

Green Parade for a Green SONA Posted on July 24, 2011 by Human Rights Online Philippines

In the morning of July 23, 2011, an estimated of more than three thousand strong advocates coming from Civil society organizations supporting the three green bills held a Green Parade in Quezon City.

Dubbed as the Green SONA, three large networks of peoples’ organizations, human rights advocates, Indigenous Peoples, Legislators, students, environmentalists, activists and Church people called for President Aquino to pass the three bills known as the Forest Resources Bill, National Land Use Act and the Alternative Minerals Management Bill. Photos by TFDP


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

All rights reserved