The call for pro-people and pro-environment reforms in the Philippines

June 5, 2018

Statement of the Center for Environmental Concerns-Philippines on the occasion of World Environment Day 2018

The Center for Environmental Concerns-Philippines welcomes this year’s theme of World Environment Day, “Beat Plastic Pollution.” Plastic pollution is indeed an important global environmental concern that needs to be addressed urgently. The exponential increase of plastic usage in our society and the poor management of its resulting waste have caused detrimental effects to public health especially to poor coastal communities and the marine environment.

The Philippines, despite being one of the most biodiverse countries in the world, is also experiencing worsening plastic pollution. We may be one of the major producer of plastic trash in Southeast Asia but the plastic did not come from us. According to Oceana, this is due to international companies selling more and more plastic products to the country accompanied by weak local governance on waste management. Greenpeace and Break Free From Plastic Movement’s audit of plastic waste in Freedom Island conducted last year also revealed multinational corporations as top plastic producers in the country.

The global plastic pollution is a manifestation of the systemic problem that the world faces today. The state of environment and the people is always on threat due to large-scale and unregulated exploitation of resources to manufacture and sell materials and products to meet profit margins. This creates overproduction and mega surplus of products resulting to more than 300 million tons of plastic wastes generated per year globally. Petrochemical industries have created a huge range of plastic-based products and has become embedded in our daily lives that it has become difficult to do away with it.

The impacts of the plastic plague in the country is aggravated by other pollutive and environmentally-destructive activities such as large-scale mining and deforestation, big monocrop plantations, mega dams, pollutive energy technology, and massive coastal land reclamation. Climate change also continues to multiply impacts brought about by these activities.

These conditions do not just worsen environmental situation but also affect communities – mostly displaces them and even violates their human rights in forms of harassments and even killings. There are already 55 environmentally-related killings in the Philippines since 2016, and most of them are mining-related. This is accompanied by intensifying conflict on resource use and allocation, mostly involving large-scale corporations and even local bureaucrats facilitating the destructive projects.

The marginalized sectors in the country – municipal fisherfolk, landless farmers, underpaid and overworked workers, abused women, homeless urban poor, and displaced indigenous peoples – are the most exposed and vulnerable to the impacts brought about by this anarchic and self-destructive system of production for profit. Waste minimization and avoidance, coastal cleanups and lifestyle change can only take us so far. Beating the pollution caused by plastic and other exploitative and environmentally-destructive activities involves a systems thinking approach, meaning we will need to restructure our social and economic systems and the way we produce things to achieve real and long-lasting results.

This World Environment Day, we not only reiterate the call to beat plastic pollution but we also resound the call to also beat the anti-people and anti-environment policies and programs of the government.

We need to stop large-scale mining for export and profit, and reorient our mining industry to contribute to agrarian reform and national industrialization. We need to review our energy policy towards a safe, reliable and accessible energy policy. We need to stop massive coastal land reclamation happening in Manila Bay and other parts of the country. We need to involve our communities, especially from the marginalized sectors, in developing ways to effectively restore our forests and coasts, and manage them sustainably. We call on the government of the Philippines to address the issues raised with concrete solutions and immediate actions.

This World Environment Day, we resound the call of the peoples worldwide to build movements that are strong enough to overcome the powers that be whose profits depend on pollution and exploitation of communities and natural resources, and build a society that is socially just, democratic, sustainable and pollution-free.