Environment groups protested the appointment of former Manila mayor Lito Atienza as secretary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), listing his litany of sins of commission and omission against the environment.
BY ACE ALEGRE
Contributed to Bulatlat
Vol 7, No. 24, July 22-28, 2007
BAGUIO CITY (246 kms from Manila) – A Philippine environmental group is not happy with President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s choice of former Manila mayor Lito Atienza to head the environment department.
“Atienza has no right to be appointed as the new Secretary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR),” the Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment (Kalikasan PNE) national coordinator Clemente Bautista said. “While he may be known for his so-called `beautification’ programs, Atienza has neither sterling qualitifications nor a clean track record of protecting the environment as former Manila Mayor to hold this crucial post. Remember that Atienza even led the controversial cutting of centuries-old trees in the Arroceros Forest Park a few years ago.”
“Lito Atienza’s administration painted (Manila) with red gumamelas, but unfortunately failed to make Manila a cleaner place to live in. Metro Manila, according to the World Health Organization in 2005, is now among the dirtiest cities in terms of air pollution throughout the world, next to Mexico City, Shanghai, and New Delhi,” Bautista said.
He added that choices to head the DENR like a former housing czar, a military general associated with the extrajudicial killings of activists and now a former mayor of the most polluted cities in the world does not sit well with environment groups in the country.
Bautista enumerated Atienza’s alleged lack of significant environmental initiatives as Manila mayor. “When he was Mayor, Atienza approved the cutting of centuries-old trees in the Arroceros Forest Park, including ancient narra, molave, balete, rubber and acacia trees. We’re afraid that Atienza will show little respect for our national patrimony and resources, in the same way that he showed little concern for Manila’s cultural heritage by desecrating and eradicating important cultural landmarks in Manila such as the art deco Jai Alai building, Mehan Gardens, the YMCA where SM City Manila now stands and the San Lazaro Hippodrome.”
He added, “Even Reyes himself acknowledged in his last Earth Day message that the waters off Luneta Park have the highest levels of fecal and total coliform bacteria and that five major rivers in Metro Manila are biologically dead during summer months. Atienza also failed to reduce Metro Manila’s production of waste, as the city alone generates 6,169 tons of garbage every day. We don’t think that there will be a significant change in environmental policy and programs under Atienza. He will only perpetuate and replicate the programs and projects under Mike Defensor and Angelo Reyes: mining liberalization, opening of timber resources, and the like.” (Bulatlat.com)