Climate and Environment

Marcos SONA: A lot of talk on environment, not as much on its defenders

Gaea Katreena Cabico - Philstar.com
Marcos SONA: A lot of talk on environment, not as much on its defenders
Philippine president Ferdinand Marcos Jr (C) delivers his first State of the Nation address at the House of Representatives in Quezon City, suburban Manila on July 25, 2022.
AFP/Jam Sta. Rosa

MANILA, Philippines — While climate change—an issue put on the back burner during the election campaign—was mentioned at least six times in the first State of the Nation Address of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., his speech was silent about the threats faced by Filipino climate advocates and environmental defenders.

The Philippines is among the countries most exposed to climate change hazards. It is also consistently identified as one of the most dangerous countries for protectors of nature.

In his speech delivered before Congress, Marcos stressed the use of renewable energy is "at the top" of the government’s climate agenda. But he also spoke about the development of nuclear and fossil gas in the same address.

He also said that capacity building for disaster resiliency is a must. "Investment in science and technology is imperative to enable us to have accurate weather forecasts and on-time disaster alerts."

Marcos added there should be disaster-proof planning for communities affected by sea level rise and efforts to look for more sources of fresh water.

Marcos has appointed disaster resilience expert Toni Yulo-Loyzaga to lead the Department of Environment and Natural Resources. 

Proper enforcement of laws

The chief executive also emphasized that laws on the environment must be properly enforced. The DENR has been often criticized in recent years for the weak implementation of laws that are supposed to protect the country’s rich ecosystems and natural resources.

“Companies who exploit our natural resources must follow the law. We all have the responsibility to preserve this Earth, for we are but custodians, and we will pass on this treasure to future generations,” Marcos said.

“There is no question that the preservation of the environment is the preservation of life,” he added.

Environmental group Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment, however, warned that Marcos' promise to construct more international airports, railway and transport systems, solar and wind farms, nuclear power plants, and dams will cause the destruction of forests, farmlands, and other critical landscapes and seascapes.

“Despite all the rosy rhetoric of responding to worsening disasters and pursuing renewable energy, the proposed-private partnership model for these economic projects has a track record of bringing displacement and conflict to communities and defenders,” said Leon Dulce, national coordinator of Kalikasan PNE.

Uneasy silence

Green groups also criticized the lack of mention of human rights in Marcos' first SONA.

"While climate change was woven in agriculture, health and energy themes, Marcos Jr. was distressingly silent about mining issues, human rights, indigenous and women rights, extrajudicial killings and environmental defenders," Alyansa Tigil Mina national coordinator Jaybee Garganera said.

According to a report of watchdog Global Witness, the Philippines remained the worst place in Asia for land and environmental defenders in 2020. Kalikasan PNE, for its part, recorded six new attacks against environmental defenders in the two months after the May elections.

"We thus fear more human rights abuses against environment and other human rights defenders," Dulce said.




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