Church and people’s organisations challenge Aquino on environment

Church and people’s organisations challenge Aquino on environment

Dozens of Philippines church leaders and representatives of peoples and religious organisations have made a public demand to the Aquino administration to “stop sacrificing the environment and the people’s welfare on the altar of profit”.

A statement regarding the state of environment under the Aquino administration was launched as part of the Pre-Earth Day Forum, “2011 State of the Philippine Environment”, on April 14

The forum was held in Quezon City and was sponsored by the Centre for Environmental Concerns Philippines, the National Council of Churches in the Philippines and the Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment.

The statement said:

We, environmental advocates, members of the clergy and church workers, citizens, and leaders representing various organisations committed to defending the Philippine environment, unite to declare publicly our growing dismay over the state of ecological destruction and human rights violations under the administration of President Benigno Aquino III.

Nearly a year after the May 2010 elections, President Aquino’s promise to pursue the “right path,” away from the injustice, corruption, poverty, plunder, and rights violations of the previous administration, remains a promise.

Last year, the President’s State of the Nation Address stressed the need to clean up the dirty landscape of Philippine politics and the mess made by the plunder of the nation’s coffers. But it said nothing about the urgent need to stop and clean up the devastation caused by the pillage and plunder of our soil, seas, forests and mountains.

To date, the Aquino administration’s actions have only contributed to worsening the state of the country’s endangered and vulnerable ecology; to further protecting elite and foreign interests in industries related to natural resource extraction; to evading the pursuit of justice for environmental defenders killed for pursuing their advocacy.

The administration promised change. Yet it has expressly pursued an economic platform promoting more foreign investments and public-private partnerships in industries such as mining, energy, and agri-business. This is governance no different from that of his predecessor: a wayward path towards more ecological destruction and poverty for the people.

The administration promised change. But it contradicts its words through practice. While it rejected 903 pending mining applications from mostly Filipino corporations, it favourably endorsed 247 foreign-backed applications for processing.

It issued an Executive Order imposing a nationwide logging moratorium, but practically set this up for failure by neglecting to address root issues such as the need to cancel logging permits of large commercial companies and corruption in logging concessions.

It paid lip service to the issue of global warming, yet allowed more coal-fired power plants—among the larger greenhouse gas emitters—to operate. It is not inclined to revive the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear disaster, but nonetheless remain open to introducing other possible nuclear power plant projects in the Philippines.

It promised justice for the extrajudicial killings of the past, yet five environmental advocates including top botanist Leonard Co and Palawan activist Dr Gerry Ortega, were slain under the Aquino administration.

We challenge President Aquino to stop this sacrifice of the environment and the people’s welfare on the altar of profit. We assert our calls for a genuinely pro-people, pro-environment and progressive policy of stewardship over our natural resources by pursuing the following specific demands:

  • Stop the liberalisation of the Philippine mining industry. Pave the way for a new national policy on mining. Recognise the local mining moratoriums set by ten provincial governments in response to the demands of their constituents and the recommendation of the League of Municipalities of the Philippines for a national moratorium on large scale mining.
  • Stop the killings and human rights violations of environmental advocates. Pursue justice for all the victims of extrajudicial killings and other rights violations under the Arroyo and Aquino administrations.
  • Cancel the permits and operations of big commercial logging firms in addition to the logging moratorium.
  • Impose a moratorium on the construction of new coal power plants.
  • Reject the proposal to revive the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant. Abandon the plan to establish nuclear power plants anywhere in the country. Support domestic research and development for tapping other renewable energy sources.
  • Scrap the Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement.

Among many others, signatories included:

The Most Rev. Broderick S. Pabillo, D.D., Auxiliary Bishop of Archdiocese of Manila;

The Most Rev. Deogracias S. Iniguez, Jr. D.D., Bishop of Kalookan;

The Most Rev. Arturo M. Bastes, SVD, D.D., Bishop of Sorsogon;

The Most Rev. Dinualdo D. Gutierrez, D.D., Bishop of Marbel;

The Most Rev. Joel Z. Baylon, D.D., Bishop of Legazpi;

The Most Rev. Antonieto D. Cabajog, D.D., Bishop of Surigao;

Bishop Nathanael P. Lazaro, Chairperson, National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP);

Fr Rex R.B. Reyes, Jr., General Secretary, NCCP;

The Most Rev. Godofredo J. David, Obispo Maximo, Iglesia Filipina Independiente;

Bishop Reuel Norman O. Marigza, General Secretary, United Church of Christ in the Philippines;

Bishop Solito K. Toquero, Co-Chair, Ecumenical Bishop’s Forum, United Methodist Church;

Mo. Mary John Mananzan, OSB, Provincial Superior and Co Chair of AMRSP;

Fr Quirico Pedregosa Jr., OP, Provincial Superior of Order of Preachers and Co Chair of AMRSP;

Bishop Benjamin A. Justo, United Methodist Church;

The Right Rev. Danilo Bustamante, Episcopal Diocese of the Southern Philippines, Episcopal Church in the Philippines;

The Right Rev. Ronelio Fabriquer, Iglesia Filipina Independiente, Diocese of Romblon;

Fr Nonie C. Dolor, Chairman, Archdiocesan Commission on Social Communication & Mass Media, Archdiocese of Lipa;

Fr Aristelo Miranda, MI, International Coordinator, Camillian Task Force (CTF) – Rome;

Fr Avelino Sapida, Migrants Program, Spain;

Ricardo Saturay, Philippine Climate Watch Alliance;

Atty. Edward G. Lorenzo, Environmental Legal Assistance Centre (ELAC);

Sr Maria Cecilia Scaramusa, CIC, Provincial Superior, CIC;

Sr. Victoria Terrenate, Provincial Superior, SSJ;

Sr Rebecca Pacete, Provincial Superior, MMS;

Sr Maureen Catabian, RGS, Coordinator – Women, Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation, RGS;

Sr Francis Burgos, RSM, Rural Missionaries of the Philippines;

Emma A. Cantor Orate, Board of Women’s Work-United Methodist Church; and

Edward Santos, Coordinator, Ecumenical Mission for Peace and Development.

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