Thursday, May 13, 2010

Noynoy’s green agenda

FIRST, let me say that one of the two presidential candidates that I rooted for will soon be President of the Republic of the Philippines. As they say, it’s all over but the proclamation.

Last month, Greenpeace and EcoWaste Coalition released the six presidential candidates’ answers to the 2010 Green Electoral Initiative (GEI) questionnaire and gave overall rankings based on the candidates’ stand on environmental issues such as climate change, solid waste, chemical pollution and consumer safety, sustainable agriculture and genetically engineered crops, water, forests, nuclear power, mining, etc.. No other advocacy group had asked the candidates to put their agenda on an issue in writing and affix their signatures. The responses were evaluated by a team.

It is worthwhile to evaluate the responses of Sen. Benigno “Noynoy” C. Aquino III who will soon begin his journey with this nation. Aquino ranked fifth in the green survey, trailing behind Perlas, Madrigal, Gordon and Villanueva. But the ranking did not mean an endorsement or rejection of anyone.

Aquino answered all except Part X (“Your environmental track record”). Here are some questions and answers:

Q. Your first environmental act during your first 100 days in office.
A. Certify as urgent for the legislature to enact a law, a mandated by the Constitution, to delineate once and for all forest lines in the country, as a clear basis for the crafting of a comprehensive national land use policy, as well as for the definition of watersheds and fragile ecosystems.
Q. Qualities of your environment secretary.
A….must be at heart an environmental advocate, trained and experienced in the technical, educational, legislative/policy aspects of environmental work. He/she must be given to reasoned debate and judgment more than just polemical argument…must be passionate about the environment but open to listen to as many, if often conflicting interests and schools of thought—and in the end be unswervingly cleat in the positions and principles of conservation, ecological balance and sustainable development.
Q. …steps to address climate change vulnerabilities.
A. I will require local governments and the private sector to draw up detailed local and community-based action frameworks for adaptation with a clear emphasis not just on rescue, recovery and rehabilitation but on research, risk-management and restoration (with a greener re-planning and effective health care responses) of damaged communities over a longer term.
Q. Are you for or against the establishment of big hydro-electric dams…why?
A. I am for the maintenance of the existing dams, without pushing for more large-scale projects, and push for massive large-scale watershed protection and reforestation in areas where dams already operate.
Q. …what action will you take to ensure the aggressive promotion and mainstreaming of ecological (sustainable/organic) agriculture practices?
A. Provide incentive mechanisms for farmers to shift to more ecological agricultural practices and farming technologies.
Q. What steps will you take to stop illegal logging and curb the corruption that makes it possible for illegal loggers to circumvent the law?
A. What Gov. Grace Padaca of Isabela has done to curb illegal logging in the Sierra Madre, we will do for the rest of the country—engage the police and military authorities, local communities and local government agencies in a sustained, vigorous campaign to seize illegally-cut logs and prevent further clearing of primary forests.
Q. Are you for or against the re-commissioning of the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant? Why?
A. Against. The BNPP has long symbolized the excesses of the Marcos regime and the failure of a national energy policy. The BNPP also sits on a high-risk earthquake fault.
Q. What measures will you initiate to ensure that mining companies are truly made accountable for the acute and long-term impacts of their operations on the environment and violation of IP and community rights? Will you continue the current policy of aggressively promoting large-scale mining in the Philippines…
A. We will conduct a full review of all mining operations and exploration permits in the country, and require honest-to-goodness environmental impact studies. Failed mining projects in the past and large-scale disasters like Marinduque, Rapu-rapu and Diwalwal have to be revisited so that there may be proper rehabilitation and compensation for individuals and communities victimized by these mining disasters. While responding to the challenges of making the mining industry more responsible and environment-sensitive, we will ensure that such activities will be equitable and not damaging to local communities and the cultural integrity of many indigenous tribes and their ancestral domain.

Read the candidates’ complete responses at I also wrote about the results in this space (“How green is your presidential candidate?” 4/22/2010).
My admiration goes to the school teacher in Mindanao who took the PCOS machine, ran and hid to protect it, risking the ire of armed men out to disrupt the elections. A soldier found her hiding with the PCOS machine in her arms. A GMA7 video clip showed her veil sliding down from her head while she picked up the muddied ballots. The teacher did not realize that she performed a heroic act and explained why she did what she did. Their superintendent, she said, had instructed them “that no matter what happen, i-septi gyud ang PCOS machine.” 

She brought tears to my eyes.