Changes Under Digong ‘Insufficient, Alarming and Questionable’ Green Thumb Coalition’s Statement on the Duterte Administration’s First Six Months
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The Green Thumb Coalition, the widest network of advocates for the environment, human rights and people-centered sustainable development, finds the Duterte administration lacking in delivering significant changes it has promised in pressing issues regarding ecological integrity, social justice and its development policy.
During the campaign season, President Duterte met with the coalition to discuss his positions on specific issues under the themes of climate justice, human rights, food security, land use, mining, waste management, agriculture, energy, and people-centered sustainable development. From this and a number of other engagements initiated by the coalition with the then-presidentiable, GTC has gathered commitments which now serve as parameters in measuring the sincerity and will of the current administration in honoring our vote, our environment and our future.
Under these nine themes, five significant issues stand out as important points of assessment and criticism. From these five issues, GTC lays down its general take on the Duterte administration so far.
MINING SUSPENSIONS AND MINING AUDIT
Under the helm of Department of Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Gina Lopez, stricter implementation of rules concerning the extractive industry has led to an unprecedented suspension of ten mining companies which violated safeguards concerning the environment and the welfare of affected communities.
This is an unprecedented deviation from the DENR’s inefficiency and lack of political will in the previous administrations. However, this much-needed development has been met by resistance by large mining companies and their pawns within the government and the supposed gains from a comprehensive national mining audit has not been maximized. Thus, for many other mining companies violating the environment and people’s rights, business remains as usual.
COAL-ADDICTION IN ENERGY POLICY
The Duterte administration has failed to distinguish itself from the coal addiction espoused by its predecessors.
Despite a renewed encouragement of transformative renewable energy for all, the President has himself inaugurated two coal-fired power plants in Mindanao.
With 69 approved coal plants on the horizon and 41 more on the pipeline, the share of coal has eaten up renewable energy in the country’s energy mix. This is despite the global trend of decarbonization, the drastic development and cheapening of renewable energy in recent years, as well as the scientificallyproven environmental cost and the increasing economic cost of maintaining coal-based technology. The reliance on dirty energy sources, as well as the continued influence and regulatory capture of distribution units and privatization in the energy sector, will only ensure that the cost of energy in all aspects of Philippine society will remain high.
INCONSISTENCIES IN CLIMATE OBLIGATIONS AND ENVIRONMENTAL POLICY
The reversal of the President’s position on the Paris Agreement should be construed as an affirmation of the country’s commitment to keeping the global temperature at 1.5 degrees Celsius, consistent with the call of climate-vulnerable countries. However, the energy and development path which heavily relies on the continued use of fossil fuels, particularly coal, and intensifies our carbon emissions lie contrary to the commitment to honor such an obligation. Worse, this dirty, deadly and costly path increases the vulnerabilities of the Filipino people to climate-related disasters through the destruction of their health, livelihood and environment.
The President’s invocation of the historical responsibilities by industrialized countries in the climate crisis – while consistent with the framework of climate justice – must not be an excuse to follow in the same destructive energy and development path they pursue. Rather, it must be coupled with the assertion that rich, developed countries must compensate for the loss, damages and vulnerabilities suffered by the peoples of the Philippines in the context of climate change. Such compensation must come in the form of financial and technological aid in rehabilitation, adaptation and the transition away from fossil-fuel energy sources, which lie at the heart of the climate crisis.
STOP THE KILLINGS: REDUCE HARM, SAFEGUARD RIGHTS IN ANTI-DRUG CAMPAIGN
At the heart of caring for the environment, climate and development is respect for human rights and dignity. As such, the over-6,200 casualties in the Duterte administration’s anti-drug campaign cannot be overlooked in assessing its first six months. As bodies pile up in the streets, the culture of impunity and fear discourages critical engagement and participation from the part of citizens concerning policies which directly affect their lives and security. Moreover, these developments welcome abuse of power from the part of enforcing authorities.
While the societal dangers of drug abuse and illegal drug trade cannot be denied, the anti-drug campaign must ensure that fundamental rights and due process is respected in curbing such problems. The vigor and political will exercised by the administration must be reoriented to ensuring the protection of citizens, including those victimized by drug abuse and drug trade, from abuses of power and summary executions from non-uniformed personnel. Its approach must be redirected towards a rehabilitative and restorative response to the drug problem.
INDEPENDENT FOREIGN POLICY MUST ALIGN WITH PEOPLE-CENTERED SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT
The succession of statements from the President on reconfiguring relations with the United States, China and Russia have caused much controversy as it relates to issues concerning human rights violations, territorial disputes and the future of Philippine development. Yet, it must not distract the public from the real gains which may stem from a truly-independent foreign policy.
Rather than being used to deflect criticism from international bodies or to gain concessions from countries with their own set of agendas, the independence of Philippine foreign policy must be anchored upon the right to self-determine and the need to prioritize the urgent demands of the Filipino people in pursuit of social justice, security and development.
As it stands, the proposed Philippine Development Plan, while posing a number of favorable policies concerning environmental protection, raises red flags on the continued business-centered paradigm of development. Such a paradigm continues to marginalize the concerns and needs of Filipino citizens in favor of profit. This neoliberal framework has time and again proved to displace the People at the center of national development.
The Green Thumb Coalition, remaining true to its commitment to safeguard the value of democratic participation and collaborative engagement, has weighed the Duterte administration in its first six months and has found it wanting. GTC reminds the President of his promise of change amidst these insufficient, alarming and questionable developments. Furthermore, GTC urges the public to continue to exercise vigilance and criticism in the policies which pertain to our rights, our environment and our future.
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