Groups hit lack of concrete plan on addressing climate crisis in Duterte's SONA
Aerial shot of protesters from the environment sector during the SONAgkaisa rally at University of the Philippines on July 28, 2020.
Dino Dimar, Handout

Groups hit lack of concrete plan on addressing climate crisis in Duterte's SONA

Gaea Katreena Cabico ( - July 28, 2020 - 12:27pm

MANILA, Philippines — Environmental groups on Tuesday slammed President Rodrigo Duterte for failing to detail in his fifth State of the Nation of the Nation concrete plans to address climate crisis and other environmental problems.

In a wide-ranging address, Duterte pushed for the restoration of death penalty for drug crimes, attacked opposition lawmaker Franklin Drilon, rebuked “oligarchs” and threatened telecommunication companies.

The president, however, failed to provide a pandemic recovery program and clear plan to address the coronavirus crisis that has so far infected over 82,000 and killed nearly 2,000 in the Philippines.

Also missing from his annual speech were clear plans to protecting the environment, save for saying the rehabilitation of Boracay showcased his administration’s “resolve to safeguard the environment.”

“For the rest of my tem, I hope to see concerted efforts in protecting the environment,” Duterte said.

‘Empty rhetoric’

For Greenpeace Philippines, Duterte’s penultimate SONA was “disappointing” for its failure to provide coherent policy agenda for recovery and beyond, “particularly as it concerns the environment.”

“The president said in his speech that protecting the environment is a non-negotiable priority. However, we have yet to see this in actual practice in the past four years, as well as in the commitments he announced during today’s SONA,” Lea Guerrero, Greenpeace Philippines country director, said.

“The lack of any concrete plans on addressing climate is reflective of the admin’s narrow, environmental agenda, which is still holding up the Boracay clean-up—a drastic military solution devoid of any stakeholder consultation—as a showcase of its environmental programs,” she added. 

Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment said the tourist island’s ecological disruption worsened post-rehab, noting there we no longer any sightings of the island’s endangered and endemic crowned flying fox and large flying fox populations—important bioindicators of habitat disturbance and pollution.

“The Boracay rehab ‘greenwash’ reflects the state of Philippine environment after four years under Duterte. Empty rhetoric try—but fail—to cover up the worsening situation with global, existential crises of climate disruption and pandemic spread as its backdrop,” Kalikasan PNE said.

‘Better normal’

The Philippines—a country regularly exposed to disasters—was among the nations identified as  most affected by extreme weather events such as storms and floods from 1999 to 2018, according to the Global Climate Risk Index published by Germanwatch in 2019. The country is also among the world’s biggest contributors to marine plastic pollution.

Kalikasan PNE also said the country lost an estimated P990.3 billion worth of sovereign natural resources including annual damages incurred in the West Philippine Sea and losses to illegal wildlife trade.

The country was also dubbed the world’s deadliest country for land and environmental defenders with 157 defenders killed by suspected government armed forces.

“These are sins of omission in Pres. Duterte’s SONA that we condemn in the highest terms. We need a ‘Better Normal’ program for a just, green recovery that will address the multiple, inter-linked ecological crises we currently face,” Kalikasan PNE said.

For Greenpeace Philippines, a COVID-19 recovery plan should include phasing out coal plants, aiming for 100% reliance on renewable energy and addressing waste crisis.

“Alongside all this, the government needs to realize that protecting the environment also means protecting the rights of people and communities—their right to life, health, livelihood, and the right of present and future,” Guerrero said.

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