Earth Day People’s Caravan Kicks Off in Philippines

Apr. 20, 2007

Sounds red alert over lack of environmental awareness among electoral candidates

MANILA — Environmental activists, people’s organizations, and progressive partylists today launched an Earth Day 2007 People’s Caravan from Quezon City to Manila, aiming to generate more public awareness of pressing environmental and people’s issues at stake in the 2007 national elections.

The caravan assembled early this morning at Visayas Avenue in Quezon City (in front of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources Main Office) and held a short program before proceeding to Manila. The caravan stopped along Bustillos Street in Sampaloc for the main program and proceeded to Rajah Sulayman Plaza in Malate, Manila.

Kalikasan Peoples Network for the Environment (Kalikasan PNE) National Coordinator Clemente Bautista said that the People’s Caravan for the Environment aimed to bring public attention to pressing environmental and people’s issues neglected by electoral candidates in their campaign sorties.

“From the way the candidates are conducting their campaigns, we do not see any significant changes in their approaches to existing environmental policies nor solutions to address the country’s current deficiencies in environmental protection,” Bautista said.

“The candidates?mostly from the ruling administration party?seem to be mostly in favor of rehashing outmoded and exploitative economic and environmental formulas such as massive natural resource extraction methods like commercial logging and large-scale foreign mining. They have not formulated ways to address emerging environmental problems such as extreme weather conditions related to climate change, which will primarily affect the most vulnerable sectors of the population, such as the poor, children, and the elderly,” Bautista said.

“The Arroyo administration has shamelessly promoted foreign plunder of our natural resources, lands, and labor through its failed attempt at Charter Change, mining liberalization and revitalization policy, and privatization of key power and water resources,” Bautista said.

“The Arroyo administration has failed to mitigate and adequately respond to natural disasters and tragedies affecting the poorest of the poor, particularly flash floods, landslides, and mudslides aggravated by extreme weather conditions that killed thousands in Camiguin, Southern Leyte (2003), Aurora, Quezon Province (2004), St. Bernanrd in Guinsaugon, Leyte (2006) and Albay in the Bicol region (2006). The largest oil spill ever in Philippine history happened last year off the shores of Guimaras, where Petron Corporation spilled over two million liters of poisonous bunker fuel in the Visayas seas. In spite of the two toxic mine tailings spills of Lafayette Mining in Rapu-Rapu island, Albay on October 2005, the DENR has allowed the company to resume large-scale and full commercial operations in the small and environmentally-critical island,” Bautista enumerated.

“The administration has also continued to support, implement and even promote anti-environment and anti-people programs, laws, and agreements, including the Mining Act of 1995, the Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA), and the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA)–despite the history of toxic waste contamination associated with the presence of U.S. military facilities in the country. Also disturbing is the increasing trend of violence against environmental activists and advocates since 2001,” Bautista said.

“All these pressing environmental concerns indicate that the Arroyo administration itself has neglected the environment and the people’s concerns. The poor environmental performance of the Arroyo Presidency is also one of the reasons why the administration’s candidates are lagging behind in the election poll surveys and will serve as a basis for their defeat in 2007 elections,” Bautista ended.

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