By Green Thumb Coalition
March 21, 2016
CEBU CITY – Environmental groups who converged in Cebu yesterday for the second leg of the PiliPinas Presidential Debates 2016 expressed disappointment at the candidates’ lack of any clear positions and plans regarding urgent environmental issues challenging the country.
More than 2,000 environmentalists, farmers, scientists, representatives from the academe and the church, and members of local and national groups from all over the Philippines had come to Cebu to press candidates for clearer positions on environmental issues in their governance platforms.
“From what we’ve seen so far, the Presidential candidates need a more thorough understanding of environmental issues that have to be quickly addressed, as these greatly affect other developmental problems such as poverty, health and food security. They make vulnerable sectors even more vulnerable the longer they are left unchecked,” said Naderev “Yeb” Saño, Executive Director of Greenpeace Southeast Asia.
“The Presidential aspirants make sweeping statements about environmental challenges such as climate change and disaster response, agriculture and farmers’ plights, or energy and development, but either they are merely pandering to popular demands with no clear plans, or are doing the opposite of what they supposedly espouse in their campaign speeches,” added Ruth Ylanan, representative of the Urban Poor Alliance (UP ALL).
The groups point as examples: Mar Roxas stating that the country needs to shift to clean, renewable energy but their current administration facilitated the entry of 25 new coal-fired power plants and himself propagating the myth that solar energy is expensive; Rodrigo Duterte acknowledging that the Philippines is at the forefront of climate impacts but going against any bid for the Philippines to phase out coal; Grace Poe pushing for benefits for farmers and agriculture but having no clear position on protecting organic farmers and ensuring safe food; Jejomar Binay not discussing any position or plans regarding any of the environmental issues that were supposed to be discussed at all.
Led by the Sugboanong Nagpakabana sa Kalikupan (Concerned Cebuanos for the Environment), which includes Greenpeace Philippines, the group is part of the bigger Green Thumb Coalition "Pwersa ng 10 Million Boto" that aims to influence candidates' debates and public discussions around key environmental concerns. The coalition earlier sent letters to the Presidential candidates asking about their platforms around issues such as biodiversity, natural resource management, climate justice, mining, energy transformation, sustainable agriculture and fisheries, wastes, and other environmental challenges.
Catherine Ruiz, of Kaabag sa Sugbo and Philippine Miserior Partnership pointed out that “most of our natural resources are now in the hands of corporations raping the environment, and we are looking at elections this year to start correcting this problem. We cannot afford to have a leader that only looks at the bottomline of raking in more money towards their own pockets in preparation for the next elections.”
The groups were hoping for more comprehensive discussions and more substantive reactions to their concerns during the Cebu leg of the debates.
"Cebu has continually pushed for and led the national discourse on environment issues. It would have been great if we finally got to hear concrete plans for our only home discussed in detail here, and not just motherhood statements. Let’s hope the third and last leg of the debates yields better results," said Sister Virgie Ligaray, RVM, of the Association of Women Religious of Cebu.