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Climate crisis ignored in plans Duterte bared at SONA

Gaea Katreena Cabico - Philstar.com
Climate crisis ignored in plans Duterte bared at SONA
Climate activists join a protest action ahead of the State of the Nation Address of President Rodrigo Duterte on July 26, 2021.
The STAR / Boy Santos

MANILA, Philippines — For environmental campaigners, President Rodrigo Duterte’s sixth and final State of the Nation Address was disappointing for the chief executive's failure to mention actions to protect the environment and mitigate the impacts of the climate crisis.

Duterte’s last SONA, delivered Monday, was the longest since 1986 but it did not lay down any plans on how the government will address climate change in his final year in office.

"This is a big gap considering that everything that transpires, all the other plans the president has laid out—for economic growth, for bettering Filipinos’ welfare—will inevitably happen against the backdrop of the growing climate emergency," Greenpeace country director Lea Guerrero said in a statement Tuesday.

"We see this year after year whenever the country is assailed by typhoons and floods, and it’s a significant part of our new reality."

While the administration made "important steps" in slowing down the expansion of coal energy, Guerrero said government must do more to prioritize concrete solutions that will empower communities and future-proof the country.

"Greenpeace is calling on President Duterte and his administration to transform words into action: ensure a transition to resilient and efficient food, energy, and transport systems; hold the big polluters accountable for climate impacts; uphold active citizen participation; and put people at the core of local and national policymaking," she said.

Environmental legacy?

Duterte’s speech also contained little on the current state of the environment or any concrete plans to protect it.

He did mention though the much-touted Manila Bay rehabilitation, including the need to replenish the fake white sand beach made from crushed dolomite rocks "until we can think of a good alternative of how we can process the whole thing back to its normalcy."

Environmental groups and scientists have said the project was a costly and temporary effort that will not address Manila Bay’s degradation.

Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment said that “Duterte’s last SONA is the longest on record [and] is the gravest sin of omission that refused to recognize the scientific realities of our environment in crisis.”

These include at least 39,498 hectares of reclamation in Manila Bay and other coastal areas, reversal of 26 mine closures and suspensions and the approval of 21 new mining projects, the group said.

It added the Philippines was identified as among the top marine plastic polluters and most long-term climate-vulnerable nations in the world. 

The Philippines has been also consistenly ranked as one of the most dangerous countries for environmental and land activists since 2017. 

Waste problem

In his speech, Duterte also talked about some of the government’s efforts to rehabilitate Manila Bay such as the move to shur down hundreds of open dump sites near the area and the reduction of the bay’s fecal coliform level.

He also mentioned the move to return dozens of containers full of trash—mislabeled as plastics for recycling—to Canada.

While EcoWaste Coalition welcomed the closure of open dumpsites, it lamented the poor enforcement of the mandatory waste segregation at source and the overdue issuance of the list of non-environmentally acceptable products and packaging.

Two decades after the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act became law, only two items have been so far added to the list: plastic soft drink straws and coffee stirrers.

The group criticized the government for its persistent pursuit of "waste-to-energy" disposal technologies.

It also renewed its call to ratify the Basel Convention Ban amendment, which aims to prohibit the export of hazardous wastes and others waste form developed to developing countries, and revise DENR Administrative Order 2013-22, which still allows the importation of recyclable materials with hazardous content.

CLIMATE CHANGE ENVIRONMENT SONA 2021
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