Press Release: Greens bewail ‘envi-unfriendly’ SONA

Campaign for Land Use Policy Now! * Sagip GUBAT * SOS-Yamang Bayan

July 26, 2011 | PRESS RELEASE
Greens bewail ‘envi-unfriendly’ SONA
Keep urging passage of green bills

Environmental activists are eagerly awaiting President Benigno Aquino III’s budget plan, which he said will be submitted to Congress today (July 27), as they try to move on from a “disappointing, environment-unfriendly” State of the Nation Address (SONA) last Monday.

Three thousand three hundred greens paraded at the Quezon City Hall and around the Quezon Memorial Circle last Saturday, calling on the President to make his “straight path” green (“gawing luntian ang tuwid na daan”, a play on his campaign slogan). CLUP Now!, Sagip GUBAT (saGipin Ugat ng Buhay At Tubig), and SOS-Yamang Bayan, networks of civil society organizations, led the parade with Representatives Kaka Bag-ao of Akbayan Party-list, Teddy Brawner Baguilat Jr. of Ifugao, and Mel Senen Sarmiento of Western Samar.

But the networks said they will have to wait for today’s budget to know if their call was heard because the President barely mentioned the environment in his SONA, let alone his environmental agenda.

“Sa ngayon ay wala kaming makitang malinaw na patutunguhan ng kanyang tuwid na daan. Ang pagpapahalaga sa kalikasan ay pagpapahalaga sa karapatan, kabuhayan, at kinabukasan [For now we see no clear destination for PNoy's 'straight path'. Prioritizing the environment is prioritizing rights, livelihood, and the future],” three networks said in a statement. “Bago siya magsalita ng iba ay ito dapat ang unahin niya [He must state this before anything else].”

The networks reiterated their hope that the President and lawmakers will immediately pass the bills on land use, forest resources, and alternative minerals management.

“Hangga’t hindi naipapasa ang land use act, mawawalang saysay ang anuman sa magagandang plano ng administrasyong ito [As long as the land use bill is not passed, none of the administration's wonderful plans will make sense],” said Ruperto “Ka Uper” Aleroza, fisherman and president of the Pambansang Katipunan ng mga Samahan sa Kanayunan, a national federation of farmers, fisherfolk and other rural-based organizations, and a leader of the CLUP Now! and Save our Fisheries networks.

Haribon Foundation and the rest of the Sagip GUBAT Network lamented that President Aquino attributed flooding problems on the “incessant and illegal cutting down of trees,” saying that most of the blame should be on commercial logging.

“If sustainable forest management was truly implemented decades ago by legal loggers, our forest cover should not have dropped to just about a quarter of the country’s total land area,” said Anabelle Plantilla, Haribon’s chief operating officer. “We need to pass the Forest Resources Bill so we can ensure that we will continue to have timber, not to mention food, water, and air, in the future.”

Haribon also noted that the SONA’s reference to the National Greening Program, as launched through Executive Order 26, emphasized its main purpose which is to provide livelihood rather than saving lives through focusing on more comprehensive and appropriate reforestation efforts.

“’We will be investing in the people, even as we invest in the environment’, PNoy said. We hope that we will be proven wrong today, and that the budget will reflect that the administration has invested enough in the environment,” Plantilla added.

“Listening to the SONA made me wonder who the target audience is. The emphasis on his fight against corruption, and profiling his government as corruption-free is consistent with his enticing foreign investments to the country. While there is no direct mention of investments and PPP, this SONA is clearly addressing foreign investors,” says Judy Pasimio of Legal Rights and Natural Resources Center (LRC-KsK), lead convenor of SOS-YamangBayan Network. “While we are not opposing foreign investments per se, Pnoy’s first year has clearly shown his bias for large scale mining investments. The absence of program for environmental protection, or sustainable development of natural resources in his speech strengthens this perception.”

“The task then for us advocates of a pro-people, pro-environment minerals framework, towards a more sustainable, equitable and nurturing development path, is to strengthen our ranks in the hope that the next SONA, he will then be addressing the interests of the rural poor communities, who are dependent on natural resources,”Pasimio added. “We hope that the allies in the Congress and Senate will be with us as we push for the passage of the alternative minerals management bills.”

In Koronadal City, South Cotabato, more than 100 indigenous peoples’ leaders and representatives gathered for the State of Indigenous Peoples Address (SIPA) 2011, watched and listened a live broadcast of P-Noy’s SONA. After listening to the SONA, participants of SIPA 2011 were dismayed of the president’s report, as there was no mention of the plight of the indigenous peoples who have been at the forefront of ravages brought by large-scale mining and other ‘development’ projects.

Conchita Bigong, a Mangyan leader from Mindoro who joined the National IP Women Gathering and the State of Indigenous Peoples Address 2011, upon hearing and viewing P-Noy’s SONA yesterday has this to say, “Tumigil na daw ang paggamit ng wangwang sa lahat ng ahensya. Pero tayong mga katutubo at katutubong kababaihan, kailangan natin ng malaking WANG-WANG! Para marinig nya tayo at malaman nya ang tunay na kalagayan nating mga katutubo at katutubong kababaihan! Kailangang WANG-WANGin ng gobyerno ni P-Noy ang malakihang pagmimina sa bansa!”

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