PMPI Statement on Ferdinand Marcos Jr. remarks on recognizing that Nature has its own Rights

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The recent statement by presidential aspirant Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. vowing to prioritize the protection of the environment [1] and recognizing Nature’s Rights saying “it has its own rights and should be allowed to flourish, reproduce and attain its abundance side by side with human civilization in perfect balance and harmony with our growing communities” seems to be a positive statement for us,  Rights of Nature [2] advocates in the country.
 
We were surprised and cannot help but be very worried though by this statement from Mr. Marcos Jr. because our assessment of his stance on environmental protection and mining garnered him a low rating in our profiling research called the Power of Purple 2022 [3]. Of the seven (7) presidential candidates, he got an ambivalent rating for his position on environmental protection as we could only find general statements admonishing environmental protection without details of why’s and the how’s of such position. Although he got positive points for pushing for bills on green building and PAG-ASA modernization, he got a negative rating on mining because he supports it and believes that it is a key source of revenue and employment to prop up our economy. On a similar note, he is likewise supportive of the operation of the Bataan nuclear power plant which might have a devastating impact on the people and the environment.
 
An extractive-oriented economy is an anti-thesis of the rights of nature perspective. Massive extraction or large-scale mining carries an ideology that sees nature as objects that is infinite and are there to be used, processed, and sold for the sake of profit and human development. Mr. Marcos needs to realize that taking on the rights of nature paradigm demands a whole paradigm shift in the way economics, legal and socio-political systems should function in relation to the environment.
 
Currently, Rights of Nature bills have been filed in Congress by Senator Risa Hontiveros and Cong. Kit Belmonte with six (6) other co-authors. They were referred to several committees and only the bill in the lower house had been on the agenda of one committee, and only once, we reckon, owing to the lack of understanding of the urgency to protect the environment and address the current climate crisis and emergency.
 
We lament the low level of attention given by many of the 2022 election candidates on the importance of addressing environmental issues in their platforms and discourses. The intersectional relationship of the environment with all other issues have not been recognized and highlighted — its connection to strong typhoons, disasters, the sorry state of agriculture and fisheries, our health, and even the armed conflicts whose roots are driven by lack of access to resources. To add, despite the warning of our climate scientists in their UN report [4] that humanity only has three more years to curb greenhouse gas emissions to avoid more severe climate disasters, or face irreversible and fatal consequences, many still regard climate emergency issues as just among the many other problems
 
Will environmental issues attract votes? It looks like many of our candidates see the environmental issue as among the farthest concern of their constituents, unlike food on the table, livelihood, decent work, democracy, and human rights. Yet, if we think about it all of the above needs are dependent on environmental services that serve as the foundation and source of all life forms.
 
We hope Mr. Marcos Jr. fully understands the implication of this position because surely, we will engage him and call him out if he strays away from the so-called Rights of Nature perspective that he professes if he is elected in any office or position in the future.
 
The Philippine Misereor Partnership Inc (PMPI) is social development and advocacy network composed of 230+ members of faith-based groups, non-government organizations, and people’s organizations grouped into 15 regional clusters all over the Philippines, advocating for justice, peace, the integrity of creation, and the recognition of the rights of nature.

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