Seeing green

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Since last week, various activities were held to highlight the need for action during the commemoration of Earth Day. In the annual State of the Philippine Environment forum of the Center for Environmental Concerns—Philippines (CEC), experts

and environmental advocates discussed different issues, ranging from why we are the “center of the center” of biodiversity to how it is being destroyed by short-sighted government policies and to actions that people’s organizations pursue to defend our national patrimony and stand for a well-balanced ecology and national development.

In the forum entitled “2012 in Review: Environmental Issues and Struggles that made the News” held last week at the Balay Kalinaw in UP Diliman, green groups and activists also challenged electoral candidates to take a stand on pressing environmental issues and defend the people and environment from plunderers and destroyers of the country’s natural resources. They also urged government officials and candidates in the upcoming elections to step up and prove their green track record through concrete action.

Ms. Fleurdeliz Panga of the University of the Philippines (UP) Marine Science Institute shared salient points from the State of the Coral Triangle report and their research. She highlighted how we are really blessed with a diverse bio­diversity that supports not only a wide range of marine species but also serves as a source of livelihood for many people. It has a value of around $3 billion per year from sustained catch from fish.

Sadly, this biodiversity is under threat not only from climate change but also from the intrusion of foreign military troops and poachers.

Kalikasan People’s Network for the Enviroment coordinator Clemente Bautista, Jr. noted that the USS Guardian grounding incident at the reef park and the presence of Chinese poachers in protected marine territory demonstrate the government’s inability to deal commensurate punishment for violators of our environmental laws. He warned that if this does not change, it will not be long before all our marine treasures are destroyed.

People’s organizations, green groups, scientists and different individuals also asked the Supreme Court last week for a Writ of Kalikasan to make the US Navy and negligent government officials liable on the grounding of the USS Guardian. There were unconfirmed reports that appeared in media yesterday that the Supreme Court granted our request and remanded the case to the Court of Appeals.

Environmental and socio-civic groups lamented government’s policy on reclamation projects, the National Reclamation Plan, which permit the conversion of coastal areas essential to ecosystem balance and livelihood of small fisher­folks for the benefit of big businesses. Kalikasan, ASAP in Pa­ranaque and CEC Philippines joined other groups in a human chain last Sunday along the Manila Bay to show solidarity against the reclamation plans that stretch from Bataan all the way to Cavite.

The said National Reclamation Plan include around 70 percent of the coastal areas along Manila Bay (26,234 hectares) and will affect several towns of Cavite in Southern Luzon, the Metro Manila coastal cities, and coastal towns of Bulacan, Pampanga, and Bataan in Central Luzon.

Other big reclamation plans are in Cebu’s Mactan Channel, covering 6,000 hectares in Cordova, Talisay, Lapulapu, Naga, Minglanilla, Mandaue, and Consolacion; 1,280 hectares in Antique and 1,200 hectares in Leganes, Iloilo, Panglao, Bohol (650 hectares), Negros Occidental (253 hectares), Aklan (240 hectares), Albay (240 hectares), Davao Gulf (238 hectares), Leyte (233 hectares), and Cagayan (220 hectares).

The target reclamation areas especially those within Manila Bay is a vital part of a bigger and critical ecosystem. It includes the Las Pinas-Paranaque Critical Habitat and Eco­tourism Area (LPPCHEA), which has only recently been proclaimed as a Ramsar site or an internationally protected wetland area. The whole area is connected biologically to mangroves, mudflats, sandy beaches, seagrass beds, coral reefs, which links to a network of rivers and estuaries that act as a drainage system of the Caraballo and Sierra Madre mountains.

These coastal ecosystem offer shoreline protection, pollution assimilation, maintenance of nutrient cycles, carbon sequestration, and serve as a breeding ground and habitat of our critical fishery resources.

The CEC noted that government apathy for environmental concerns coupled with flawed legislation can lead to disastrous consequences for the people and the environment. She cited the case of mining in the Philippines, where the current national policy has facilitated the “outrageous wholesale” of the country’s mineral resources and the large-scale destruction of biodiversity areas.

It is important that we select legislators in the House and Senate in this coming elections who will prioritize the scrapping of current anti-environment and anti-people policies and legislation. We should also look for people who would push for the passage of laws that will protect the country’s diverse natural resources. The forum also called on everyone to pressure candidates into laying down a concrete environmental agenda and look for candidates with a proven record in fighting for the environment and the people’s rights.

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