Sustainable development paradigm, a failure – environmental group

“A perfunctory look at the state of the Philippine environment is already indicative of the truth.” – Kalikasan Party

By INA ALLECO R. SILVERIO
Bulatlat.com

In a forum held in Quezon City, newly-established environmental party-list group Kalikasan said the country and the rest of the world are very far from achieving a balance in economic prosperity and ecological preservation even after 20 years of sustainable development campaigns. It also said that in the case of the Philippines, the balance does not exist at all.

The forum was the group’s activity aimed at educating the public on the the upcoming Rio + 20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development in Brazil in little over a week. Rio+20 is set 20 years after the Earth Summit where world leaders forged their sustainable development economic framework. World leaders are expected to reiterate the tenets of sustainable development as understood within the concept of a “Green Economy,” wherein economies supposedly seek to improve human well-being and social equity while significantly reducing environmental risks.

According to Kalikasan Party-List, however, the world’s advanced capitalist nations are actually set to reinvigorate their sustainable development global offensive without admitting to the destructive impact of globalization as an economic policy. Case in point, it said, was how countries influenced and even controlled by the world’s global powers practice supposedly pro-environment policies.

“The Philippine government has always boasted of being among the first nations to adopt the Agenda 21 of the Earth Summit, institutionalized it in the Philippine Agenda 21 and mainstreamed it in succeeding environmental and developmental laws and policies. Still, how far along are we towards the balance of economic prosperity and ecological preservation 20 years after the campaign of nations for sustainable development?”

The group said a perfunctory look at the state of the Philippine environment is already indicative of the truth.

“Massive deforestation has continued to reduce our forest cover, with an estimate 23.7 percent of forests left in 1987 dropping to a dismal 6.6 percent in 2010. Three years after the first Rio Summit, the onerous Mining Act of 1995 was railroaded to facilitate the liberalization of the country’s mineral resources, which has resulted in 21 abandoned mine sites replete with chemical pollutants and physical hazards left untouched, and at least 21 tailings dam failures in the past 25 years,” it said.

Kalikasan Party-List also pointed out that the country’s habitat loss records are so high that the Philippines was ranked in 2008 as the fourth country in Asia-Pacific with the highest number of threatened species notched at 221 fauna and 526 flora. In the meantime, 58 of the 92 or 68 percent of major forest key biodiversity sites in the country are also currently covered by mining permits.

“Despite being touted as the epicenter of marine biodiversity, up to 98 percent of our coral reefs and 50 percent of sea grass beds are degraded or lost at present due to unsustainable human activities and coastal development. As many as 50 of our 421 rivers nationwide are considered biologically dead, and up to 58 percent of groundwater supplies are contaminated, attributed to the lack of proper sanitation services and rapid urbanization,” it shared.

The group also said that a series of energy-related laws passed in the last decade has resulted in the privatization of the country’s energy reserves resulting in the control of big corporations. It said that the oil deregulation law, the Electric Power Industry Reform Act, Biofuels Act and Renewable Energy Act have all resulted in a heavily deregulated industry that prioritizes cheap but dirty or destructive energy.

“Clearly, the pathway paved by the proponents of Sustainable Development in the Philippines has resulted in massive ecological destruction and plunder of our natural resources. With the failure of the globalization project as context, what reforms are proposed in a green economy, and how does the Aquino government intend to implement this?” the group asked.

Kalikasan Party-List in a public statement asserted that a transition toward a green economy requires the monetization of natural resources and its ecosystem services which will serve as basis for the cost-benefit analysis of economies as to its environmental impact.

“The viability of enhancing this “green capital” as an engine of growth must be promoted, and in connection, the creation of enabling conditions such as market mechanisms and policies,” it said.

The way the global economic and political system works now, the group said, economic valuation essentially treats the environment as a trade commodity, and the promotion of “green capital” as an alternative engine of growth is essentially leaving conservation of the environment to market-based mechanisms.

“This is very far from the promises of human well-being, reduction of environmental risks and ecological scarcities. In the Philippines, Aquino’s economic policies are not far off from this pathway: in fact, the mechanisms of a green economy will serve to consolidate the destructive liberalization, privatization and deregulation schemes that continue under the current regime,” it asserted.

Effectively bolstering Kalikasan Party-list’s claim against the Aquino government’s skewed environmental schemes are the fact that currently, 54 clean development mechanism projects are already endorsed for various private concessions.

The implementation of these climate mitigating and adapting projects are actually being left to the mercy of market forces. Sixteen of these projects involve energy production, further contributing to the trend of energy privatization that has led to the prioritization of coal-fired and destructive hydro-electric power plants. In fact, the Angat Hydro-Electric Power Plant, the last remaining public large dam in Luzon, is being marketed as one of the Aquino administration’s Public-Private Partnership (PPP) projects.

In the meantime, in the latest draft executive order formulated by the Aquino administration on mining, a total economic valuation of mineral resources prior to the operations of mines was proposed.

“Just like the shift of rhetoric from sustainable development to green economies, there is nothing new with the current development policy trends under Pres. Aquino from that of the past two decades. We cannot allow the leaders of the world’s polluter nations and corporations to impose an economic pathway that presents no real solutions to the environmental and socio-economic crises faced by the world’s disenfranchised masses. The people must fight for its own definition of a green economy: one that genuinely addresses the current global capitalist system which treats people and environment as commodities. The people must work towards a system which will resolve global poverty and ecological crisis,” it said. ()

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