Days before President Benigno Aquino 3rd’s State of the Nation Address (SONA) on July 22, at least 500 advocates and activists marched to the House of Representatives in Batasan to call on the President and Congress to defend the Philippine’s natural resources and protect people’s rights through the enactment of three green bills.
Calling for the enactment of the National Land Use Management Act (NLUMA), Forest Resources Bill (FRB) and Alternative Minerals Management Bill (AMMB) are the Campaign for Land use Policy Now! (CLUP Now!), Sagip GUBAT and SOS Yamang Bayan networks.
The “green groups” urged President Aquino to recognize these urgent concerns in his SONA and to certify urgent the three green bills that will not only address our environmental problems but also protect the rights of Filipino communities to a thriving environment and livelihood opportunities.
Erwin Quiñones, national coordinator of SOS Yamang Bayan explained, “Two years ago we asked the President: gawing luntian ang tuwid na daan. Unfortunately, he failed us. Now we call on the government again to prioritize these three environment bills that will address land use problems, deforestation and minerals management.
“Eventually, these legislative measures will contribute to the rehabilitation and stability of our ecosystems and will raise our capacity to fight the impact of climate change and a growing population,” he added.
Reps. Barry Gutierrez 3rd of Akbayan Partylist, Teddy Brawner-Baguilat Jr of Ifugao, Jorge Banal of the 3rd Distict of Quezon City, and Kaka Bag-ao of Dinagat, who supported these bills met the group as they arrived at the Batasan. The group was composed of indigenous peoples, farmers and fisherfolks, urban poor, women, human rights advocates, environmentalists and students.
Rep. Gutierrez urged the President to “paint” his administration green and champion important laws to safeguard the environment.
“President Aquino during the start of his administration used the color yellow as a symbol in the people’s campaign to fight for transparency and end a corrupt past and then employed the color purple in the struggle for the passage of the Reproductive Health law.
It’s just fitting that, in the remaining years of his presidency, he should also paint his administration green and push for the passage of laws crucial for the protection of the environment,” according to Gutierrez.
NLUMA already has the support of the President which he mentioned in his SONA in 2010 and certified as urgent piece of legislation last Congress. However, the bill was derailed in the Senate after it was reverted back to the Second Reading with the motion of reconsideration at the last minute by Senators Bongbong Marcos, Juan Ponce Enrile and Manny Villar. NLUMA was also excluded in the list of agenda last two session days in the Senate ending its chances of being passed into law last 15th Congress.
Reps. Kaka Bag-ao, Teddy Baguilat, and Jorge Banal re-filed the National Land Use and Management Act last July 1. In the Senate, Sen. Gregorio Honasan also re-filed the National Land Use bill that will rationalize the holistic and just allocation and use of our country’s land and natural resources.
Banal, principal sponsor of NLUMA stressed; “We have pushed for the enactment of a National Land Use and Management Law during the 15th Congress and we are steadfast in fighting for its passage.”
He also encouraged everyone to support this campaign for NLUMA for this will “ensure sustainability and ecological balance, distributive justice in the allocation of land and water resources”.
Reelected Ifugao representative, Baguilat, again filed the Forest Resources Bill last July 1.
“I strongly believe it is imperative that Congress pass all three green bills because they address the lack of a proper framework for the use and management of our natural resources. Our lands, waters, forests and minerals are not just sources of raw materials to be exploited but are resources that should be wisely managed for the benefit of present and future stakeholders. We hope Malacañang will support all three bills as well and not just fiscal incentives for investments,” stressed Baguilat.
The three bills have been filed in both Houses of Congress as House Bill 108 and Senate Bill 63 (NLUMA), House Bill 95 and Senate Bill 45 (FRB), and House Bill 984 and Senate Bill No. 43 (AMMB), respectively.
Bag-ao promised; “In this 16th Congress, we will not let the opportunity pass to enact the NLUMA, AMMB and FRB into laws. These three environmental bills must be prioritized by this Congress to jumpstart the deliberations and debates towards the speedy passage of these laws.”
The networks challenge this Congress to be “Green Heroes” and immediately tackle and pass these bills.
The Executive Branch led by President Aquino is also called on to support the urgent passage of these critical resource laws, together with promoting a better policy and fiscal environment for investments.