Statement on the 50th Earth Day!

April 22, 2020

THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC EXPOSES GOVERNMENT NEGLECT ON ENVIRONMENT AND PUBLIC HEALTH, DEMANDS IMMEDIATE ACTION

Today’s celebration of the 50th Earth Day amidst the crisis brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic underscores the need for an immediate and decisive change in the country’s governance on environment and public health.

The Philippine environment has long been plundered by business corporations with their over-extractive and exploitative operations. Deforestation and the loss of wildlife habitat have been associated with the spread of free pathogens, including zoonoses like the COVID-19, previously remained intact by natural ecosystems.

Ecological destruction also means disruption of livelihood, water and food sources, displacement of communities, and the loss of biodiversity from which potential medicines can be obtained. These increase the vulnerability of marginalized communities such as the peasants and indigenous people to health crises and climate-related disasters.

The COVID-19 crisis has exposed the dire condition of our country’s public healthcare system that is integral in responding to disasters. The militaristic restriction on movement has failed in the absence of complementary support on the healthcare system, mass testing and contact tracing, and adequate financial and economic sustenance. Poor sectors fell at a greater disadvantage. On top of the common malnutrition, they experience a lack of access to health services, lack of financial safety nets, and even human rights violations.

All these unresolved issues that left the country way behind in the fight against COVID-19 must serve as a warning and lesson to the government. It must not wait for another pandemic to come before it enforces stricter environmental laws and policies, support agrarian reform and food self-sufficiency, widen grassroots education on health and environment, and establish a comprehensive healthcare system.

The theme of this year’s Earth Day is “Climate Action.” If unabated, climate change is seen to cause more adverse weather events, disease patterns, and poverty. Therefore, as citizens, we must assert our rights and pressure the government to prioritize the environment and healthcare and build people’s resilience against the effects of climate change.