The Philippine Misereor Partnership Incorporated (PMPI) expressed deep disappointment on President Benigno Aquino’s scarce remarks on the environment during his last State of the Nation’s Address on July 27.
“It seems that the president, in mentioning the long list of achievements on various areas of governance and social reforms, has forgotten his responsibility to take the lead in protecting the Philippine’s rich biodiversity and natural resources,” said Sr. Cres Lucero, PMPI’s co-conveners and a member of the Task Force Detainees of the Philippines.
Emphasizing on PNoy’s gratefulness to church and various religious leaders, Lucero asked the President to listen to the spirit of Pope Francis’ call to hear the cry of the poor and the cry of mother earth.
“In these times that we need the most the support from all sectors to promote the care for our common home; when disasters caused by natural hazards and human activities occur left and right, we expected his encouragement in line with the Pope’s vision to take action to protect our environment,” Lucero added.
Lucero insists that it is a must for the President to use the remaining days of his office to push for projects that would protect the environment: the ones that will respond to the challenges of climate change and to safeguard our communities from disasters specially due to destructive mining activities.
Reforms in the mining industry
Yolanda Esguerra, PMPI national coordinator also noted that PNoy has been inconsistent in terms of pushing reforms in the mining industry that has been linked to several major environmental destructions and controversies.
“After the release of the Executive Order 79 in 2012, up to this time, what we have are categories for No-Go Zones for mining but still no specific area or province has been declared as such in a policy or legal paper even at least in the part of the President,” explained Esguerra.
Esguerra added that there is still time to add “luntian at makakalikasan” to “matuwid na daan.”
Last June, the House of Representatives have approved eight bills declaring eight areas in the country as mining-free zones. But the said policies are still far from enactment especially without the approval from the Senate.
Ed Garingan, PMPI project officer for the anti-mining campaign, also mentioned that reforms in the mining sectors should not focus on fiscal regime.
“Economic reforms are just beside the point,” Garingan said. “What the country really needs is ecological rehabilitation and conservation, and this is almost impossible with the Philippine Mining Act and the poor implementation of our current environmental policies.”
A call from the mining-affected community
Elizabeth Mangol, executive secretary of Marinduque Council for Environmental Concerns (MACEC) urged the president to verify his SONA on the ground by visiting mining-affected communities and see for himself how it damaged our important ecosystems in the island and how it caused a lot of suffering to people.
“We appeal to the President to give priority in ensuring that small islands ecosystem like Marinduque is protected from the environmentally destructive activities of mining companies,” Manggols said. “Not to mention the violation of human by these companies in the conduct of their operations.”