April 19, 2010
At the start of week-long Earth Day activities, environmental activists and indigenous people dubbed Gloria Macapagal Arroyo as the most anti-environment and anti-people president ever as revealed by the group’s study of Arroyo’s nine-year track record. With this, groups headed by Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment presented Mrs. Arroyo with a fitting ‘Kalabasa Ecology Award’ and warned future leaders not to heed her foots.
“Degraded environment and natural disasters are the worst legacy of this administration. President Arroyo implemented policies that opened up our forests, mountains and seas for foreign and private corporations for the reckless extraction and plunder of our mineral, timber, oil and marine resources. These policies have brought so much environmental devastation,” said Clemente Bautista, national coordinator of green activist group Kalikasan PNE.
The fact that the people are poor and inequality between the upper and lower classes have widened is indicative of Arroyo’s misappropriation and mismanagement of the country’s natural resources according to the group. Arroyo is an epic failure in serving and protecting the Filipino people and have demonstrated utter disregard for basic human rights such as the right to life, health, and balanced ecology.
“Arroyo’s regime which lasted for almost a decade is plagued by environmental crimes. These crimes, in the context of this report are conscious, odious offenses that are part of systemic practice and policy that result in massive environmental destruction, attack on human rights and dignities of a community or group of persons, and pose a threat to the current and future and generations,” explained Mr. Bautista.
The environmental crimes are as follows:
1. Arroyo’s large-scale mining offensive
The mining liberalization program is the most unpopular and controversial among Arroyo’s policy and project, and is considered by the basic sectors and green groups as her gravest environmental crime. The latest count of mining tenements is 348 covering 744,199 hectares across the country has adverse environmental consequences, impacts on community health, displacement of indigenous peoples, upland settlers, as well as all who are dependent on the ecosystems to be mined, violations of human and civil rights and militarization, and dubious economic gains.
2. Massive deforestation for corporate production and lack of effective reforestation program
The country remains with only 3% of original forest, the smallest forest cover in South East Asia while having one of the highest numbers of endangered species in the world. This dismal state of Philippine forests due to commercial logging has resulted in some of the most gruesome tragedies in recent history such as the 2001 Camiguin flashflood, 2003 Southern Leyte landslide, 2004 Aurora-Quezon landslide, 2006 St. Bernard landslide and Bicol mudslide.
3. Facilitation of Marine degradation and pollution
The Philippine is the center of the center of marine biodiversity of the world and one of the richest in marine resources with 220 million hectares of coastal and oceanic territorial water area. Commercial fishing accounts for 36%, municipal 30%, and aquaculture fisheries 24% of the total fisheries yield. However, the Philippine marine area has been cited as the most threatened marine hotspot in the world and our fish productivity is fast declining. Only 4% of our coral reef remains in excellent condition and 97% is under serious threat while less than 120,000 hectares from 500,000 hectares of our mangrove areas remain.
4. Privatization of energy resources and failure to harness renewable energy potential
The Arroyo government not only failed to harness our rich renewable energy to lessen our dependence to fossil fuels such as coal, it has even increased our use of dirty sources of industry that poses grave economic, environmental and health costs to the nation. Several pollutive coal power plants were contstructed during the Arroyo administration.
5. Promotion of the privatization and depletion of freshwater resources
Two out of five Filipinos (34%) do not get this very precious resource from formal sources for domestic consumption while only 45% of irrigable farms are served by state and private irrigation systems. This is due to much of our water resources being controlled and used by big foreign and private corporations through their water permits as allowed by our water laws.
6. Lack of genuine disaster-preparedness mechanism and program.
The government’s incompetence and helplessness in the face of recent typhoons Ondoy and Pepeng is doubly marked as idiotic with climate change being a buzzword for several decades already and with Mrs. Arroyo boasting of being climate czar. Even National Disaster Coordinating Board’s Gilbert Theodoro admits that had there been more than 49 rubber boats and more communication equipment, the death toll of Ondoy would have been much reduced from 688.