“Taking real action to reduce global warming and greenhouse emissions means revoking contracts for the construction of new coal-fired power plants and disallowing the entry and operations of TNCs that destroy our forests.”
By DEE AYROSO
MANILA – As the 21st Conference on Parties (COP 21) on Climate Change ends Dec. 12 in Paris, groups said President Aquino’s statements in the conferences last week “merely mimicked imperialist charades” as his administration does not seriously address urgent climate issues.
“What BS Aquino mouthed during the Climate Change Symposium is nothing but lip service that is totally detached from reality,” said Dr. Giovanni Tapang, national chairperson of the Advocates of Science and Technology for the People (Agham).
“Taking real action to reduce global warming and greenhouse emissions means revoking contracts for the construction of new coal-fired power plants and disallowing the entry and operations of TNCs that destroy our forests, which are valuable carbon sinks and natural barriers to floods and other disasters,” he added.
On the first day of the COP 21 in Paris, on Nov. 30, President Aquino spoke at the Climate Vulnerable Forum and at the leaders’ event. Aquino highlighted the Philippines’ efforts to use renewable energy, the National Greening Program (NGP), cutting the country’s carbon emission, and people’s resilience to disasters. But back here at home, progressive groups said government is pushing for the “dirty energy” of coal-fired power plants, and is tolerating the onslaught of agribusiness plantations in forested lands.
Tapang said it was “dubious” that the Aquino administration pledged to reduce up to 70 percent of carbon emissions by 2030, when it had actually set to put up 28 more coal-fired plants in the next three years, even beyond its term. He cited a July 2015 data from the Department of Energy (DoE) on Private Sector-Initiated Power Projects, which showed 32 coal plants are in the pipeline to be built by 2020.
DoE data shows that the total installed capacity of all coal-fired power plants in the country is at 5,677 MW, to be added with at least 4,000 MW in the next three years. A study by the Union of Concerned Scientists said a typical 600-megawatt (MW) coal plant can produce 3.5 million tons of carbon dioxide per year.
“This can translate to at least 60 million tons of carbon dioxide per year that we are adding to the mix of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere,” Tapang calculated.
Agham also criticized Aquino’s flaunting of the National Greening Program (NGP), which aims to plant 1.5 million trees by 2016 as part of its climate mitigation plan.
“Since it was enacted in 2011, plant scientists as well as environmentalists have bewailed the glaring inconsistencies of NGP by first, planting exotic species that are harmful to local ecosystems and secondly, by haphazardly planting the wrong seedlings at the wrong locations and/or at the wrong times.
Tapang said the P7-billion ($147 million) NGP is plagued with reports of corruption, and has been resisted by indigenous peoples for encroaching and displacing them from their ancestral lands.
“This reforestation project is a sham that will not rehabilitate local forests as part of climate mitigation measures nor will it provide economic support to communities that serve as forest stewards,” he said.
Plantations worsen people’s vulnerability to climate change
For the Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (Federation of Agricultural Workers or UMA), Aquino’s continued implementation of neoliberal policies only “drive plunder and massive ecological destruction in the Philippines.”
“The Aquino administration’s commitment to maintain and expand corporate agricultural plantations, especially in Mindanao, is a testament to this hypocrisy,” said Ranmil Echanis, UMA secretary general.
UMA and the newly-formed Network Resisting Expansion of Agricultural Plantations in Mindanao (REAP-Mindanao Network) warned that the conversion of millions of hectares of lands into corporate plantations will result to massive destruction of forests and loss of biodiversity. The expansion of agribusiness plantations was observed to have worsened the occurrence of flash floods during typhoons.
Echanis quoted REAP data which said some 500,000 hectares, or 12 percent of agricultural lands in Mindanao, are now devoted to export crops. In the past years, plantations have encroached in peasant communities and in ancestral lands of the Lumád and Moros.
“The Aquino government’s drive to aggressively increase the scope of various agricultural plantations in Mindanao will definitely destroy Mindanao’s traditional food sources and the country’s last remaining frontiers,” Echanis said.
UMA cited the 1,200 persons who were killed in flashfloods in Region 10 due to Typhoon Sendong (Washi) in 2011.
“Even government experts are now warning us that the Kitanglad and Kalatungan mountains in Bukidnon, for example, are now in terrible condition, with massive soil erosion and siltation of rivers caused by giant pineapple and banana plantations. Because of these plantations, Cagayan de Oro City should brace for flash floods worse than the deadly torrents brought by Typhoon Sendong in 2011,” Echanis said, quoting REAP data.
Echanis said ironically, government targets up to 1.6 million of hectares for the expansion of plantations for sugarcane, cacao, rubber; coffee, and oil palm, by 2030. Meanwhile, multinational fruit giant Dole Philippines plans to expand its pineapple plantation to 12,000 hectares. Another company, the Unifrutti, is also expanding to 2,600 hectares for banana Cavendish plantations in Moro areas, such as Maguindanao.
Tapang said that just as other nations are rising up in the call to address climate change, Filipinos need to carry on the struggle.
“With a president engaged in hollow talk and babbling bubble rhetoric, we need to amplify our collective call for a change in the current system of production and consumption, resist the plunder and destruction of our natural resources, and act in unity for social justice amidst climate change,” he said.