Civil society, faith-based, and people’s organizations united their voices to urgently call for a pro-Filipino climate and environment agenda for the upcoming national and local elections.
“Above anything else, politics should endeavor to serve the poorest and most vulnerable sectors and not the other way around,” said Most Rev. Gerardo Alminaza, D.D., vice chairperson of Caritas Philippines.
Alminaza called on candidates, political leaders and those holding government offices to think about the future generations and the well-being of our planet, which is the source of all life.
“Leaders should be servants of the flock and should not take advantage of their positions to gain glory, power and money,” he added.
Sectoral leaders representing more than 100 civil society organizations and interfaith based groups emphasized the need for a greener economic development framework.
This must account for the high dependence of people and economy on nature, with balanced, just, inclusive, and ecologically-sound approaches to achieving prosperity, planetary, and people’s health.
The network demanded that the next elected leaders must “take a stand and create opportunities to initiate a paradigm shift towards a model of sustainable development” that listens and responds to the cries of the earth and the poor.
This includes protecting the Philippines’ interests related to its natural resources and territorial sovereignty, as stated under the Constitution.
Greenresearch Executive Director and environmental sociologist, Patria Gwen Borcena said many Philippine CSOs want the next administration to veer away from the flawed economic development paradigm and pursue a greener or more sustainable development path.
Borcena stressed that the environment is not secondary to the economy. But rather, the management of the economy and care for the environment should be complementary.
She emphasized a line from the CSOs’ collective statement: “The conservation, protection, and rehabilitation (CPR) of the environment and natural resources (ENR) should be prioritized over the agenda of further utilizing these for profit and short-term ends of humanity.”
Per the groups, the climate emergency must be prioritized in the national and local agendas of current candidates in the May polls.
They called for “a vision of transformative actions” to avoid the tragedies millions of Filipinos endured and suffered from due to typhoons, droughts, and other climate-related hazards
“We do not want a repeat of our Yolanda experience. We want a new set of leaders that would promote policies and programs that can protect us from the harm and hazards brought about by strong typhoons, flash floods, drought and other natural disasters. We want leaders that would stop mining in our island,” said Gaeng Somooc of Protect Manicani Island Society (PROMISI), a community based, anti-mining organization in Guiuan, Eastern Samar.
The CSOs are pushing for 20 policy recommendations that include strategic climate action, transition to renewable energy and phaseout of coal by 2030, protection of our territory and marine ecosystem in the West Philippine Sea and a shift away from extractivist economy.
Some of its recommendations highlighted includes an improvement on implementation, monitoring and evaluation of climate and environmental laws and policies, including a ban on single-use plastics, an end to coal, then oil and natural gas, a review of environmentally harmful activities and false solutions, such as mining, commercial logging, nuclear energy, waste-to-energy, large dams, and reclamation, until relevant laws are passed.
These demand a pursuit on a just transition to an economy dominated by more sustainable technologies and cultures, such as renewable energy, alternatives to plastics, and a zero-waste lifestyle; build adequate and green infrastructure for public transport and other non-motorized modes of traveling.
“The upcoming polls provide our citizens with an opportunity to install leaders at the national and local levels who will pursue, together with our people, holistic and sustainable solutions, not band-aid schemes, to our country’s garbage and pollution woes. Let us not waste this opportunity and pick leaders on May 9 who will steer our country toward a socially just, zero waste and toxics-free society,” said Aileen Lucero, National Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition.
Lucero also stressed the importance for the nation’s next leaders to uphold the ban on waste incineration, ban waste imports, ban single-use plastics and other non-environmentally acceptable products and packaging materials such as those containing harmful chemical additives, among other priorities.
The CSOs further recommend to elevate climate action as a strategic national agenda through implementing a coherent strategy to address the climate crisis, including the country’s Nationally Determined Contributions to the Paris climate agreement; and the passage of other long-recommended green bills, including the National Land Use Act (NLAU), Sustainable Forest Management (SFM), Alternative Minerals Management Bill (AMMB), Indigenous Community Conserved Areas (ICCA) Bill, nationwide ban on single-use plastics, Rights of Nature Bill, and others, with meaningful consultation involving civil society stakeholders.
According to Ian Rivera, Executive Director of Philippine Movement for Climate Justice, “The core of which is an economic system that will spur national development – ensures growth and competitiveness of economic sectors and development of its human and natural resources. The current system being perpetuated by the Philippine Government enables the continuing plunder of our resources, destroys the environment and marginalizes the people and labor. This system is glaring in the energy sector. The continuous use of expensive, dirty coal and fossil fuel despite the climate crisis, the closing gap towards climate catastrophe and the competitiveness of clean and renewables is blatant disregard of the lives and survival of the Filipino people.”
Yolly Esguerra, National Coordinator of Philippine Misereor Partnership Inc. emphasized “a new development paradigm that would recognize the rights of nature and would veer away from the current extractivist economy is urgent. We can’t continue to live like nature is infinite. We need to transition to a more organic and circular economic system. And it should start from recognizing that all living beings have inherent dignity and rights and the source of all life. Only when we can change our relationship with nature can we effect real change in social systems”.
In addition, local actions to address green issues must be empowered, including restoration of biodiversity and ecosystems, promotion of diversified and sustainable organic agriculture, easier access to climate and disaster financing by vulnerable local governments and communities, and integration of environmental learning into academic institutions in the light of Laudato Si’