MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s administration received yesterday an overall failing mark for its first-year performance on “environment and social justice” from a 40-member coalition.
The Green Thumb Coalition, in a press conference, explained that the Duterte’s words on topics related to the environment and social justice “were not backed up by clear policy agenda and concrete actions to address critical issues”.
Bright spots in Duterte’s performance on environment-related issues, according to the coalition, were the ratification of the Paris Agreement and the appointment of Gina Lopez as environment secretary.
“Unfortunately, it was a brief bout of optimism,” the coalition said. “Former DENR Secretary Lopez did not get sufficient backing from Malacanang in her bid to reform said agency and also to discipline and exact accountability of mining companies that have been wreaking havoc on the environment and communities.”
The Commission on Appointments rejected Lopez on May 3, the second among Duterte’s cabinet appointees. Lopez was reappointed by Duterte twice after being bypassed by the CA earlier in the year.
Also, “Green” bills and ecological agriculture programs addressing poverty and food security also gained initial movement during the first year.
However, the coalition pointed out the gap of the current administration in the following areas:
- energy process review;
- rescinding permits for new coal-fired power plants;
- certifying National Land Use Act as an urgent bill;
- repealing waste-to-energy guidelines;
- banning single-use plastic and plastic microbeads;
- re-exporting all illegal garbage shipments from Canada;
- implementing fiscal reforms in mineral extraction; and
- establishing comprehensive people’s food policy, among others.
The coalition also mentioned the “creeping impunity of killings” that spilled over to environmental and human rights advocates. “Several murders of indigenous peoples have been reported but up to this day remain unsolved,” the coalition said.
In separate releases, members of the coalition also pointed out some lapses and specific achievements of Duterte in his first year when it comes to policies and actions in mining, land use and biodiversity.
- Gina Lopez did not get sufficient backing from Malacanang in her bid to reform the Department of Environment and Natural Resources;
- Duterte’s inaction or staying in the sidelines when the Chamber of Mines led by his very own finance secretary, Sonny Dominguez successfully blocked the confirmation of Gina Lopez by the Commission on Appointments (CA);
- Duterte also became “mysteriously silent on the issue of mining and allowed Sec. Dominguez ‘sing a different tune’ on mining”;
- Backtracking, flip-flopping, and short-handing promised reforms in environmental laws and programs, especially on minerals management, mining, ;
- No significant actions and achievements on the following agenda raised by environmental groups; a) strengthening of the free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) process, b) support to LGUs that banned mining, c) implementation and expansion of no-go zones for mining, d) moratorium on large-scale mining, e) dislocation and marginalization of indigenous peoples due to mining; and e) enactment of Indigenous and Community Conserved Areas (ICCA) law; and
- Martial Law in Mindanao presenting real threat to freedom of movement and rights to assemble for individual, civil society groups, and communities protesting destructive development projects.
- No action from the Senate to pass the National land Use Act bill. The House of Representatives, however, approved the bill on its third and final reading and transmitted House Bill 5240 to the Senate.
- Main accomplishments were the 2017 national budget for DENR and the policy directions and focus in the Philippine Development Plan, particularly Chapter 20 – “Ensuring Ecological Clean and Healthy Environment” and
- Urgently tackle the following legislative measures: The Forest Resources Bill, the Expanded National Integrated and Protection Area Systems Bill, Alternative Minerals Management Bill, Forest Delineation Bill, and other pro-environment measures.