The Center for Environmental Concerns- Philippines joins fellow environmental groups in unmasking the true state of the environment in the 5th State of the Nation Address (SONA) of President Rodrigo Duterte.
The worsening attacks on the environment of the Duterte Administration were all laid bare when the country was set into lockdown due to COVID-19.
Scientists have proven ecological degradation as major cause of the emergence of zoonotic diseases like COVID-19. Despite the warnings, the Administration has opted to favor massive and overly extractive operations, erasing forests and endangering biodiversity, such as big mines and mega-dams that it has been investing on since 2016. Only recently, Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu allowed reopening of big mines previously suspended by Former Sec. Gina Lopez, without disclosing the companies’ names.
Experts and advocates have urged to integrate environmental solutions with the public health response such as proper sanitation and waste disposal, and provision of nutritious food source. However, the government is still outlying this from its plans.
Adding insult to injury, President Duterte even saw massive reclamation as a way to augment COVID-19 funds, despite trillions of pesos already dispensed. The administration also considered mining and dredging for future economic recovery.
Instead of a comprehensive response, what the citizenry have received in almost 5 months are series of threats, intimidation and killings, curtailment of the press, and the passing of an unconstitutional law.
Environmental defenders have faced multiple human rights violations. Jory Porquia, an environmental activist in Iloilo who was active in COVID-19 relief drive was shot dead. Marissa Cabaljao, a climate activist, was illegally arrested. Land defenders in Calaca were accused members of the NPA. Barricaders against OceanaGold in Nueva Vizcaya were violently dispersed by the police. Even CEC was redtagged during its relief mission.
The Anti-Terrorism Law was fast-tracked in Congress, and can now be used to justify illegal arrests of environmental defenders who are protecting hectares of land and sea against huge businesses.
ABS-CBN, a major news and information source, which has covered pressing environmental issues, was denied franchise renewal, in the government’s move to muzzle its reportage.
Today, CEC unites with the broad masses in the United People’s SONA at University Avenue that coincides with President Duterte’s speech. The organization calls on the Filipino public to resist as one and challenge the administration’s inaction towards COVID-19 crisis and the environment.