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Group calls on candidates to prioritize environment

CEBU, Philippines - Various non-government organizations and civil society groups are calling on candidates for the 2016 elections to prioritize and include environmental issues in their platforms.

“Few politicians, incumbent and those who are running in the May 2016 elections, have emerged with stand and views on environment and climate change concerns,” the Green Thumb Coalition said.

The Green Thumb Coalition, which is a nationwide network of around 40 NGOs and civil society groups, launched a campaign sortie at Plaza Independencia in Cebu City yesterday.

The coalition aims to get the commitment of national and local candidates to embrace a green agenda, and to hold newly-elected public officials accountable in their positions and commitments to their environmental mandates.

In Cebu, Green Thumb aims to elevate the awareness of the public to environment issues, such as the adverse impacts of illegal fishing, reclamation projects, coal plants, and mining.

The group also pushes for the discussion of disaster risk reduction, sustainable communities, food security, and waste management in the electoral platform for 2016.

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“It’s high time that politicians in Cebu hear out and respect the rights of their constituents and push for a green agenda in their campaign and implement it,” the group said.

With 2.7 million registered voters, Cebu Province holds the highest number of votes in the country, according to the Commission on Elections.

Vince Cinches, Ocean Campaigner of Greenpeace Southeast Asia, said that Cebu plays a crucial role in shaping the national green agenda, as efforts have made headway towards a more livable society.

“The Cebuanos’ love for the oceans is underlined by their landmark dolphins case at the Supreme Court, and by opening the country’s first shark sanctuary, among other initiatives. Cebu’s engaged citizenry has been very influential in pushing for development and for policies that will ensure natural resources are cared for and sustained,” Cinches said.

Lawyer Gloria Estenzo Ramos, vice president for Oceana Philippines, said that fisheries are our main protein source and with our oceans on the brink of destruction, we have to elect public officials who truly care about our future.

Yesterday, Daanbantayan Mayor Augusto Corro pledged his commitment to the coalition, making him the first ma-yor in Cebu to do so. As for senatoriables, eight candidates have pledged their support to the Green Thumb Coalition, namely: Bayan Muna representative Neri Colmenares, Former Akbayan representative Walden Bello, OFW rights advocate Susan Ople, Retired General Diosdado Valeroso, former DILG chief Raffy Alunan, and lawyers Lorna Kapunan, Levi Baligod, and Allan Montaño.

Lawyer Aaron Pedrosa, secretary general of Sanlakas, said that when communities, homes and lives are on the line in the context of climate change, leaders ought to take heed.

“Now is the time for them to make a stand – for our survival and our future,” Pedrosa said.

Green Thumb Coalition will engage with political aspirants and the voting public by raising the debate on nine key environmental issues at the national level.

These includes biodiversity and ecosystem integrity,  natural resource and land use management and governance,  human rights and integrity of creation, climate justice, mining, extractives and mineral resource management, energy transformation and democracy,  sustainable food sovereignty,  people-centered sustainable development and  waste management. — (FREEMAN)

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