MANILA, PHILIPPINES – Another sector gives the President Noynoy Aquino a failing mark. The performance of President Aquino in his first 100 days in Malacanang, dismayed environmental activists groups saying President Aquino failed to meaningfully initiate and act decisively to protect the Philippine ecosystem.
Environmental activist group Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment (Kalikasan PNE) revealed that they were expecting from the new Aquino administration to differ in approach from the previous Arroyo administration and reverse the policies that run counter to environmental protection and conservation, however this has not been fulfilled.
“In the first three months, President Aquino was unable to provide a clear and comprehensive environmental agenda on how the government will rehabilitate the local ecosystems and reverse the environmental degradation in the country. He even did not fulfill the positive promises he set out during his campaign,” said Clemente Bautista of Kalikasan PNE.
During the Presidential campaign period, Aquino promised to review all current mining projects in the country and to designate a genuine environmental advocate as secretary of the Department Environmental and Natural Resources (DENR).
The group noted that, contrary to his promise, no single mining project were reviewed up to this date and even the even the so-called midnight mining deals that were dubiously approved few months before Arroyo stepped down from Malacanang were not investigated by the new administration.
In the last few months of President Arroyo, the DENR approved 13 Exploration Permit (EP), 21 Mineral Production Sharing Agreement (MPSA), and 2 Financial and Technical Sharing Agreement (FTAA) from April 29, 2010 to June 29, 2010.
Some of these shady deals include the mining concessions given to Canadian mining company MBMI Resources Inc. (MBMI) and Altamira Exploration and resources, Inc. that cover a total of 19,000 hectares of land in the pristine environment of Palawan province. Also MPSAs covering 53,624 hectares of offshore area in Cagayan province were given to four foreign and private corporations in June 9, 2010. None of these mining projects were investigated.
“Another indication of Aquino’s anti-environment orientation is the appointment of Ramon Paje, former Executive Director of Mining Development Council (MDC) and Presidential Adviser on Mining, as secretary of the DENR.” said Bautista.
One of top architects of mining liberalization of the previous Arroyo administration, Sec. Paje led in the promotion of large-scale mining in the country. He is the number one man of the previous government through the MDC in convincing and lobbying local government units to allow mining projects in their area.
One of the actions of Sec. Paje, as instructed by the President Aquino, is urge the provincial government of South Cotabato to reverse the Environment Code declaring the ban of open pit mining technology in the province.
The Environment Code, which was passed to protect the environment and agriculture in South Cotabato, is seen as a hindrance to the biggest mining investment of foreign-back Sagittarius Mines Inc. to develop the Tampakan project in Far South Mindanao Region.
“On the aspect of climate change issue, President Aquino’s pronouncement that he will focus on climate mitigation instead of climate adaptation is worrisome. This is maybe one of the factors why measures on increasing the capacity and capability of the government and local communities on how to cope with global warming effects such as stronger and more frequent typhoons and longer droughts are almost non-existent. Until now, the country is still reeling from water shortage,” added by Meggie Nolasco, spokesperson of Philippine Climate Watch Alliance.
In a statement, Defend Patrimony Alliance, a multisectoral alliance in defense of natural resources, reported that the new administration also failed on environmental justice issue.
According to Defend Patrimony, human rights violations and threats to the safety of environmental advocates still persist under the Aquino administration. Only this year, the cases of the 5 environmental activists have been killed and 1 failed assassination, have not been investigated or even denounced by President Aquino. There are a total of 33 environmental activists killed since 2001.
The group said that President Aquino also kept mum on the issue of toxic contamination and deaths in the former US military bases in the Philippines when he recently met with US President Barak Obama.
“This early on, based on the actions of President Aquino and his lack of response to other pressing environmental issues such as climate change and commercial logging, we have observed that the Aquino Administration is just continuing the old liberalization policies, programs, and projects of the environmentally destructive Arroyo Administration,” ended Bautista.