HomeNewsGreen groups urge Philippine gov't for concrete action on climate emergency

Green groups urge Philippine gov’t for concrete action on climate emergency

Faith-based and green groups said the Philippine government lacks concrete actions that will address environmental issues

Church and pro-environment groups called on the Philippine government this week to implement “concrete actions” to address the climate emergency instead of making empty promises.

The groups welcomed President Rodrigo Duterte’s mention of the climate crisis during his speech before the United Nations General Assembly on September 23.

In his speech, Duterte said the same urgency needed to fight the coronavirus pandemic “is needed to address the climate crisis.”

“This is a global challenge that has worsened existing inequalities and vulnerabilities from within and between nations,” he said. “Climate change has worsened the ravages of the pandemic,” he added.

The president stressed that developing countries like the Philippines “suffer the most” due to the climate crisis as he urged nations “to strengthen communities and peoples for preparedness and resilience.”

Faith-based and green groups, however, found the president’s statement lacking concrete actions that will address environmental issues.

During the opening activity of “Mining Hell Week” on September 24, Jaybee Garganera, national coordinator of Alyansa Tigil Mina, said recent government actions and policies contradicted the president’s statement.

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“The priority of the Duterte administration is the re-opening of the economy amidst the pandemic at the expense of public health considerations,” said Garganera.

He said the government is “willing to sacrifice the environment and the welfare of the affected communities just to allow destructive extraction projects to resume operations.”

Climate activists and environmental groups mount an “art attack protest” dubbed “Hands on Climate Action” at the Science Complex in UP Diliman in Quezon City as part of the annual Global Climate Strike on Sept. 25, 2020. (Photo by Jire Carreon)

The government earlier announced that it allowed the resumption of some mining activities to help the country’s economy recover.

“We reject the recommendation of the Environment department to open more mines as part of the economic stimulus and recovery program of the government as a response to COVID-19,” said Garganera.

He said history and statistics proved that the economic benefits of mining “are minuscule in terms of employment, tax revenues, or contribution to the country’s Gross Domestic Product.”

On September 25, hundreds of environmental advocates and activists held a demonstration at the University of the Philippines to mark the annual Global Climate Strike.

The activists lambasted what they called the “deadly doublespeak” of Duterte before the United Nations.

Mitzi Jonelle Tan, spokesperson of Youth Advocates for Climate Action Philippines, said while Duterte called on world leaders to honor the commitment to climate action, Filipino communities face a worsening condition due to government policies that aggravate the climate crisis.

“We are on a climate strike amid the pandemic because of Duterte’s relentless pursuit of climate disruptive projects like coal power expansion, land reclamation, and aggressive big mining,” Tan said.

She said Duterte should be ashame “for not walking his UN climate commitments talk in your own backyard.”

Climate and environmental activists hold a demonstration in Quezon City as part of the annual Global Climate Strike on Sept. 25, 2020. (Photo by Jire Carreon)

“The height of hypocrisy is that Filipino climate protectors are now being terrorized under the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 that Duterte defended in the same speech,” Tan added.

Leon Dulce, national coordinator of Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment, claimed that the Philippine government “is weaponizing” the law against land and environmental defenders to advance business interests.

“Even before the passage of the new (anti-terrorism) law, environmental defenders were already being killed in the country. With this new law, democratic space for green activists continues to shrink,” he said.

Kalikasan reported that there were at least 167 Filipino environmental defenders working in the frontlines of environmental and climate justice murdered since July 2016.

Father Francis Warren Puno, head of the ecology ministry of the Diocese of Lucena, said people, especially Filipino youth, “cannot rely on the government to protect the environment” and “secure a better future for the next generations.”

“We, the people, must do whatever we can to protect Our Common Home. We must stand together to put pressure on those who are in power to heed the Cry of the Earth and of the Poor,” he said.

Christian Churches in the Philippines are observing the Season of Creation that aims to promote environmental protection and encourage the public to commit to personal ecological actions.

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