In less than a month, we, Filipinos, will elect a new set of leaders for our country. The debate series administered by the Commission on Elections (COMELEC), “PiliPinas Debates,” is deemed as one of the major avenues for the candidates to publicly engage in a formal discussion of certain issues of national concern such as the environment. Unfortunately, the latter was barely given regard.
It can be observed that during the first PiliPinas Debate on February 21, nothing in relation to our environmental concerns was mentioned. The lack of which was compensated in the second presidential debate where the issue on climate change was raised through the question of Amy Pamintuan to Mayor Rodrigo Duterte which was “Paano natin matutupad ang ating commitment sa UN habang tumataas naman ang dependence natin sa coal para sa ating energy security?”
Sadly, this highlight, which could have been our chance to determine the credible recipient of our green votes, only lasted a few minutes with their rather imprecise pronouncements until the candidates veered away from the topic and used the time to exchange critical remarks instead.
The sole Vice Presidential PiliPinas debate for the upcoming elections, on the other hand, measured the candidates’ stand on the same issue, climate change, only with the question: “Do you think the Philippines is doing enough to address the urgency of climate change?” answerable by a mere yes or no, to which all candidates answered with the latter.
The debates, together with the responses of the candidates, reflect Philippine political society today: the concerns of voters and the proposed actions of our candidates showed a lack of interest and attention to environmental concerns despite its contribution to economic development, political stability, and the overall well-being of the Filipino society. We believe that the protection of the environment should be a core agenda of every candidate.
We live in a megadiverse country— we share our home with numerous unique species and yet we are gradually losing them, our forests, coral reefs and other ecosystems. In the last several decades, our forests have been in steady decline. In fact, according to DENR’s (Department of Environment and Natural Resources) latest estimate of forest cover is at around 24 percent (2003) from the original forest cover of 68 percent (1900’s).
Oftentimes, our aspirations for a better quality of life, sadly, mean that we take more from the environment. Despite being one of richest countries in terms of biodiversity, the Philippines is considered to be a biodiversity hotspot.
The last of the debate series before the general elections is set this Sunday, on the 24th of April. Let us be conscious that the upcoming election is our chance to make a positive impact on the environment. We need leaders who will champion our concerns, who will win the battle of conservation for us. Let us choose the leader with a clear environmental agenda recognizing that a strong environmental conservation program is key to economic growth, social and cultural sustainability and political stability. Let us elect the candidate who truly cares about our future and those of the generations to come.
Act. Make an Impact. Show support for the passage of Forest Resources Bill and other Green Bills. Volunteer for us! Contact Nikki Almazar at firstname.lastname@example.org or 421-1209 today