Thursday, July 26, 2007

STATE OF NATURE ADDRESS (2007)

BAYAN,
humarap kami ngayon sa inyo bilang mga environmental NGOs,
kasama ng aming mga katuwang o partner church organizations,
people’s organizations (POs) at mga komunidad
na nagkaisang magsama-sama sa isang malawak na kilusan
at walang takot naming ilalahad ang aming hatol
sa tunay na kalagayan at kinabukasan
ng ating Inang Kalikasan sa ilalim ng Rehimeng Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo:

“Sirang kalikasan, pamana ni GMA sa bayan!”

Habang tumatagal sa ilalim ng GMA Administration,
lalong tumitindi ang aming pagkababahala at pagkadismaya sa kasalukuyang mga programang
at polisiyang pang-ekonomiya ng GMA Administration na may malaking kaugnayan o masamang epekto sa kalikasan, kalusugan at pag-unlad ng ating bayan.

Dahil na rin sa aming layunin na marinig ng pamahalaan at taong-bayan ang kanilang mga boses, inihahanda namin ang aming “State of Nature under the Macapagal-Arroyo Administration”:

A NATION MOVING TOWARDS ENVIRONMENTAL DESTRUCTION


GMA should learn the lesson of climate change. Our atmosphere can take only so much human abuse. How about our land and waters?

“Join hands in the biggest challenge of all, where we all win or lose: the battle for the survival and progress of our one and only country.” So goes the battlecry of GMA’s previous SONA.

The GMA SONA 2007 included a few lines about the environment --- such as the declaration of nature parks. However, her SONA failed to address pressing major environmental concerns raised by a multitude of non-government organizations, people’s organizations, and the church. There is no mention of global warming and climate change, which together with health-threatening air pollution are mitigated by biofuels.

GMA should take a lesson from the alarm raised by scientists and echoed by the United Nations and former US Vice-President Al Gore on climate change spawned by human abuse of the environment. She should give the environment top priority for the sake of the large majority of our people who directly depend on it for survival, as well as
for her avowed goal of economic development.

Sound environmental polices make good economics.

After all, there would be no economics if there were no environment to provide the raw materials for the manufacture of goods which constitute the essence of economic activity. And real economic development starts from the bottom, with its solid, stabilizing mass base. No trickle-down effect will do it. That is an insult to the masses.

Are they supposed to wait for the crumbs that fall from the rich man’s feasting table? Nothing less than the economic empowerment of communities can move this nation forward towards development. Environmental protection is needed to achieve that. A wise old saying admonishes not to give fish to a poor man. Give a fishing rod instead, and teach him how to fish. But what if, even with his new-found skills, he cannot make a catch, because all the fish are gone, thanks to environmental destruction? The visionary leader looks after the food, water, health, and livelihood security of the people by ensuring the conservation of the environment.

Sadly, GMA’s track record shows her low regard for the environment.

Year 2003:

GMOs. Are we being made unwitting guinea pigs?

Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) also known as genetically engineered organisms (GEO) invaded the Philippines. Organic farmers go on a hunger strike in a brave, but futile effort to stop it. Monsanto NG 603 GMO corn is approved as food and feed in the country, marketed commercially under the name Round-Up Ready.

What is wrong with GMOs?

GMOs tamper with genetic make-up of organisms. It is still in the experimental stage, and long-range effects still have to be known. The Monsanto GMO corn has a built in pesticide to kill the corn borer. What could it do to humans who eat it? The answer is not yet known. The results of a test on rats with GM soy in Russia led by a Doctor of Biology Irna Markova of the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS), was the first research that determined clear dependence between eating genetically modified soy and the posterity of living creatures. There was an abnormally high level of posterity deaths in the offspring of mother rats fed with GM soy.

New studies of NR203 found it potentially toxic. Environmental groups led by GreenPeace are demanding its market withdrawal and a moratorium on GMO approval, with the evidence on GMO health risks filing up. Safety assessment of GMOs in the Philippines rely on analyses submitted by the GMO companies themselves. The Department of Agriculture is exposing Filipinos to unacceptable health risks by its continued approval of GMO use and propagation as food.

Here are the other vital reasons why GMOs should be banned:

GMOs will kill organic farming which is the healthiest way to produce food, does not exhaust the soil, and is much in demand and commands the best price in the international market.

GMO contaminates the soil and farms, once planted to GMO should remain planted to GMO.

GMO is dependent on chemical fertilizers which quickly exhaust and contaminate the soil.

GMO is monoculture and bad for biodiversity-especially bad for the Philippines, a biodiversity superstar.

GMO companies will put farmers at their mercy with the use of “suicide or terminator seeds.” These seeds cannot be used for succeeding harvests.
Farmers have to buy new seeds each planting time, at prices dictated
by the company. This will put foreign companies in control of our food security.

Year 2004

Crisis of government forestry policies: “Private Gain from Public Pain”

E.O. 318 - June 9, 2004. This decreed Sustainable Forest Management as a state policy. It is anything, but sustainable and does not even acknowledge that only less than 3% of the country is covered with untouched forest lands. The ideal forest cover is 54%. Communities give way to corporations in the management of forests, focusing on resource extraction to raise revenues and maximize profits.

DAO 59 – August 31, 2004. Conversion of forestlands into alienable and disposable lands under Special Forest Landuse Agreement (FLAg), in anticipation of mining, The sellout of our forests became complete.

Water Crisis in Northern Luzon. The denudation of the forests meant loss of vital watersheds resulting in a water crisis. Lack of irrigation has forced farmers to have only one cropping season, even as some farmlands have to go completely idle.

Municipal fishing ordinances opened rivers, marine areas, and other water bodies for lease to commercial companies. The DENR also leased out marshlands and foreshore areas to big businessmen, politicians, and landlords. All these problems came out during a big multi-sectoral Northern Luzon Water Convention on November 24-26, 2004. Water pollution has also become a problem because of mining.

The Quezon and Aurora Tragedy. Continuous torrential rains from several typhoons between November 19 and December 3 climaxed in a monstrous deluge of logs and water on the hapless inhabitants of Quezon and Aurora. More than one thousand died, thirteen million were rendered homeless and over four billion in damages was initially assessed. The cause naturally was forest denudation. It was the first time that destruction of such a scale struck these places. Some villages were almost wiped out from the map. Ironically, the government blamed the victims for illegal logging concessions which later came out as large-scale logging. These big companies conducted logging operations on 340,236 hectares, representing 58% of the total 582,000 hectares of the total forestland area of the two provinces of Aurora and Quezon.

Years 2004-2005

Mining comes back with a vengeance.

The Supreme Court reversed a previous ruling and declared the Mining Act of 1995 as constitutional.

After the Marinduque mining disaster involving Marcopper and its Canadian partner, Placer Dome n 1996, when millions of toxic mine tailings poured into the Boac River, then President Fidel Ramos decreed a moratorium on foreign mining operations in the country. The local economy and ecology have not recovered from the devastation up to now. Just to give an idea of the extent of the damages, the New York times account said that if dump trucks filled with the toxic mine tailings were lined up bumper to bumper, they would encircle the globe three times.

Now, GMA wants to make mining her administration’s engine of growth. Just two months after the Quezon tragedy, the government held an international mining conference announcing to mining investors that the “Philippines is now open for business.”

Our country is internationally cited as a biodiversity superstar. The wealth of flora and fauna above its ground has more value than what lies beneath. Mining would denude its forests, flatten its mountains, desecrate its soil and contaminate its lands and water bodies – all for short term financial relief.

So why turn a superstar into a prostitute?

The damage wrought by mining in the country is well-documented. During the Arroyo administration, five mine spills have been recorded, the most serious of which are the October 11 and October 31 tailing spills of the foreign-owned, “high tech” Lafayette Mining Ltd., the flagship mining projects of the Arroyo Administration.

There is no doubt that mining is a very destructive industry, more so because of its impacts like acid mine drainage whose toxic effects can last for thousands of years. Mining can turn our small, beautiful country into a waterless wasteland.

It is highly water-intensive industry which not only contaminates, but depletes precious fresh water which in island countries, like ours can easily result in salt water intrusion. Large, land-locked countries can afford space for mines, but not small archipelagic countries like ours.

Finally, studies show that mining worsens instead of alleviating poverty and the only ones who get rich are the mining companies and corrupt public officials.

Year 2006

The JPEPA Issue: The Pie, the Lion, and the Mouse.

Weak nations have always gotten the short end of the bargain when dealing with strong nations. This was clearly seen in the WTO maneuverings until weak nations learned to band together to present a strong united front. Seeing that they could not get their way in the face of such unity, the strong countries then used the one-on-one or bilateral partnership agreement to pursue their advantage. The JPEPA is the result of such First World tactic and its lopsided provisions show what happens when the lion and the mouse divide a pie. Guess who gets the lion’s share?

GMA signed the Japanese-Philippine Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA)
in Helsinki, Finland in September 2006, away from the glare of Philippine media.

Several provisions have raised serious concerns.

1) Toxic trading. The Philippine tariff schedule to the JPEPA enumerates the specific waste products that will be given a preferential tariff rate of 0%.

“Simply put, the reduction of tariff rates on these products to 0% under the JPEPA operates as a blanket invitation to both Japanese and Filipino businessmen to engage in trade on such hazardous and toxic waste products. Under the JPEPA, should there be importers wanting to bring in toxic waste shipments from Japan, the Philippines has no choice but to receive Japan’s waste products into the country. Moreover, the importers shall not be required to pay any customs duties on such shipments because of the 0% tariff rating under the JPEPA.”

2) The agreement has many lopsided provisions in favor Japan. Japan benefit from our raw materials and cheap labor from the Philippines, while they export finished products to us.

3) The provision concerning the Filipino nurses will put them in a very disadvantageous position, especially since they have to take exams in Japanese.

4) On such a vital issue, the process of drafting and signing the treaty is questionable.

“The JPEPA negotiations were characterized by secrecy and very little public consultation.”

“Despite these warnings, however, and with very little public consultation and information, the Philippine government proceeded to sign the JPEPA after just 2 1/2 years of negotiations.”

Laiban Dam Project. Metro Manila must develop its own watershed urban reforestation is the answer! On October 9, 2006, MWSS presented a brief of Laiban Dam. It will be built to augment water and electricity supply of Metro Manila and Calabarzon.

What is wrong with the project?

Laiban Dam is built near earthquake faultlines. Should an earthquake occur and cause the dam to break, the catastrophe that would follow would be worse than the Quezon landslide tragedy, since the dam is 113 meters high. These are the same people victimized by that tragedy.

Laiban Dam will submerge a forest and eight barangays, causing dislocation of communities who were minimally consulted about the project.

It will deprive people of Real, Infanta, and Gen. Nakar of water for the irrigation of more than 1,000 hectares of farmland which, is already inadequately supplied.

Infanta is endangered protected are, a biodiversity hot spot which will be destroyed when the water from the rivers are diverted to the dam.

Resulting diminished water flows in Agos River can affect navigation, irrigation, fisheries, and river estuary.

Studies of the World Commission on Dams and the International Rivers Network have indicated that costs far outweigh benefits of large dams.

All the risks and expense for a dam that is meant to serve for only three years.

2007 and Onwards
“Quo Vadis, Philippines?”

There are disturbing reports of more anti-environment initiatives. How true are they?

* MWSS employees will be allowed to build their homes in the La Mesa Dam Watershed, endangering its forest and exposing Metro-Manila water supply to contamination. Where is the logic in putting the people of Quezon at great risk to provide for water for Metro-Manila, then exposing the inadequate water of Metro Manila to contamination?

* The government is considering the idea of putting up a nuclear power plant. Can we cope with a melt-down like that of Chernobyl, the effects of which are still being felt by Russia until now? Japan’s recent quake-damaged powerplant, caused several hundred barrels of radio active waste to spill out, some 317 gallons, of which flowed to the sea of Japan. This has raised public’s fears about the safety of nuclear power. The Philippines is in the “ring of fire” and as earthquake prone as Japan, without Japan’s high technology capability to cope. If Japan is now scared, we should be more scared, and forget about nuclear power which we had already wisely rejected.

* The appointment of Lito Atienza as DENR Secretary, the destroyer of Arroceros Park shows GMA’s contempt for the environment. Is this to ensure that GMA’s anti-environment project would be efficiently carried out? Why is GMA declaring a war on the environment?


Climate Change and Other Pressing Environmental Issues

The government need to recognize that the failure to effectively address the environmental issues as GMOs, mining, illegal logging, importation of toxic wastes, and Laiban Dam will likely exacerbate the negative impact of climate change in the Philippines.

GMOs. In global warming, as we know, an increase in temperature will affect yields of cereals, especially and affect plankton which feed marine organisms and reduce the supply of fish, in particular. Loss of biodiversity is expected leading to reduced sources of food.

The point is that the GMOs' effect on loss of biodiversity (which can be avoided by not planting GM crops, etc.) can hasten/multiply/accelerate the loss of biodiversity which global warming will inflict. Both leading to a reduction of food supply from the land and from the sea.

Laiban Dam. The building of the Laiban Dam resulting in diversion of river flow will deprive the plants dependent on its water. Thus, Laiban Dam will exacerbate a potential negative impact of climate change which is the destruction of vegetation in downstream.

The world needs lifestyle change to arrest the deadly climate change and the President of the Philippines must lead our country in that endeavor.













GREEN CONVERGENCE’S 2007 SONA CALL TO ACTION

Isang linggo matapos ang Edsa Revolution II, nagkaroon ng Thanksgiving Mass sa Edsa Shrine na pinangunahan ni Cardinal Jaime Sin. Dumalo ang bagong presidente na si Gng. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo at ang dating pangulong Corazon Aquino. Pagatapos ng Misa, na-interview ako ng GMA Channel 7. Tinanong ako ng kung maaari ko bubuuin ang pangungusap: “Kung ako si GMA …”

Noon, sinagot ko na: “Kung ako si GMA, kukunsultahin at papakinggan ko ang mga organisadong sector mula sa hanay ng mga magsasaka, manggagawa, mangingisda, maralitang taga-lunsod, kababaihan, mga church organizations at ibang NGOs. Hindi pa tapos at ganap ang Revolution, kailangan pa ng mas malawak at tunay na active non-violent social revolution.”

Ngayon, kung sasagutin ang tanong na iyon, ang aking sasabihin ay: “Kung ako si GMA, … Papakinggan ko ang mga konretong panawagan ng environment sector at kanilang mga partner people’s organizations (POs) para matugunan ang mga isyu may kaugnayan sa kalikasan at ekonomiya tulad ng GMOs, Mining, JPEPA, at Laiban Dam.”

A. Calls of the No to GMO Coalition

1.Require mandatory labeling (as an interim measure);
2.Enforce a moratorium for further releases of GMOs;
3.Reject LLRice62 application of Bayer Crop Science; and
4.Conduct environmental impact assessment and monitoring of Bt corn filed releases.


B. Calls of Alyansa Tigil Mina (ATM)

1.Scrapping of the Philippine Mining Act of 1995;
2.Passage of an Alternative People’s Mining Act;
3. Revocation of EO 270-A and the rejection of the National Minerals Action Plan; and
4. Moratorium on large-scale mining operations


C. Calls of the Magkaisa Junk JPEPA Coalition (MJJC)

1. Ratify the Basel Ban Amendment;
2. Reject JPEPA;
3. Advocate for generator responsibility/polluter pays;
4. End toxics use;
5. End rapid obsolescence; and
6. Re-design for recycling now.

D. Campaign against Laiban Dam Project

1. Stop the Laiban Dam Project; and
2. Find alternative solutions for water problems.

You said that: “The state of the nation is strong.”

We say: “The state of nature is deteriorating.”

You said that: “The President is as strong as she wants to be.”

We say: “We want you to be a President who has a strong political will
to promote Safe Food, Healthy Environment, and Sustainable Economy.

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