MAC: Mines and Communities

Environmental Award for Philippine President a travesty

Published by MAC on 2010-04-18
Source: Philippine Daily Inquirer

Soon to be ex-President, Glora Macaoagal- Arroyo of the Philippines has been selected by the International Conservation Caucus Foundation (ICCF) and Global Environment Facility (GEF) to receive an award for her contribution to conservation.

This rather humourous notion has provoked anger among those who have been highighting how her administration's promotion of "sustainable mining" is anything but that. The anger has also been directed at groups supporting the award, including the ICCF, GEF and Conservation International.

According to Clemente Bautista of Kalikasan People's Network for the Environment: "The award is not only a big lie but an insult ... [as] the country is also a hotspot for environmental defenders and vocal critics of Arroyo’s policies and projects". 

US ‘green' award for Arroyo draws outrage

By Christian V. Esguerra, Jerome Aning

Philippine Daily Inquirer

12 April 2010

MANILA, Philippines - Environmental and religious groups have expressed outrage over the prestigious conservation award President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is set to receive at the US Congress in Washington on Tuesday.

Ms Arroyo is also scheduled to receive another award this week in Madrid from Spanish King Juan Carlos I for her efforts in promoting the Spanish language in the Philippines.

A Switzerland-based organization has written the International Conservation Caucus Foundation (ICCF), saying it was "shocked and very angry" over the Teddy Roosevelt International Conservation Award to be conferred on Ms Arroyo during her visit to the United States.

"Will President Roosevelt, the founder of the US National Park system, not turn in his grave at the idea that a destroyer of fragile protected areas, vital water catchments and marine environments, is being given an award for conservation in his name?" said Clive Montgomery Wicks, consultant of the Commission on Environmental, Economic and Social Policy of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).


Ms Arroyo will be in the US capital to attend the Nuclear Security Summit (NSS) on April 12-13, together with 43 other world leaders invited by US President Barack Obama.

The summit will discuss the threat posed by illegal diversion of nuclear materials and seek to develop steps to secure vulnerable nuclear materials, combat nuclear smuggling, and deter, detect and disrupt attempts at nuclear terrorism.

The IUCN wrote ICCF chair Bill Archer on April 8, warning that the award-giving body would risk damaging its name "in the eyes of many Filipino NGOs and other civil society organizations internationally" should it proceed with the recognition.

In a separate letter dated April 6, religious groups cautioned that the award would "damage the reputation of the awarding organizations among all those who know the recent history and current situation in the Philippines and the role of the President in worsening that situation."

"Honoring President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo as a conservationist and protector of biodiversity is akin to giving a fox an award for chicken husbandry," said the letter that was signed, among others, by Rev. Michael Doe of the Anglicans in the World.

"President Arroyo has led a deeply corrupt regime that has promoted and profited from environmental despoilation by mining, logging, overfishing and the promotion of unsustainable plantation production."

Dishonor to biodiversity

Quoting Fr. Frank Nally of the Columban Fathers in the United Kingdom, Wicks said: "It not only is a dishonor to biodiversity but the whole planet by a woman who has made a virtue of plundering the Philippine archipelago."

Malacañang earlier welcomed the award, saying it would be "most gratifying to the President whose legendary personal commitment to the environment has earned a higher profile for the country on various environmental issues."

"As for those [opposing the award], who are likely motivated by their own murky ideological agendas, we'd only be too happy to line up the President's green credentials against theirs," said Gary Olivar, Ms Arroyo's deputy spokesperson.

The award will put Ms Arroyo in the company of Prince Albert II of Monaco, who received it in October last year for "his great personal commitment to good natural resource management, particularly in biodiversity and water conservation, and his leadership in focusing other world leaders on these important causes."

Coral Triangle

Wicks' group acknowledged that Ms Arroyo would be feted for her work in the Coral Triangle, an area covering six countries in the Indo-Pacific, including the Philippines, where 75 percent of all known coral species are found.

"However, she is also pushing for a massive expansion of mining even in key protected areas like Mount Guiting-Guiting on Sibuyan Island (The Galapagos of Asia) where a former WWF-Philippines colleague of mine, and a Philippine Municipal Councilor, was murdered by a mine company guard in 2007," he wrote.

"The Protected Seascape in Pujada Bay and Mt. Hamiguitan Range, a declared protected area in Davao del Sur, Mindanao, is another case in point where mining tenements have been allowed," Wicks added.

"We are also concerned with other mining plans, including the important central Mt. Sugarloaf range in the Zamboanga Peninsula (western Mindanao)," he said.

An alliance of environmental groups led by the Green Convergence for Safe Food, Healthy Environment and Sustainable Freedom earlier asked the ICCF to reconsider giving the award to Ms Arroyo.

King's residence

In a statement, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said the Premio Internacional Don Quixote de la Mancha would be given to Ms Arroyo in a ceremony scheduled for April 15 at the Palacio de la Zarzuela, the principal residence of the Spanish monarch.

She will also have a private meeting with the king and attend a lunch with members of the royal family.

The DFA said Ms Arroyo would also have talks with Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, who is currently holding the European Union's rotating presidency.

The Premio jury recognized Ms Arroyo's "educational initiative in introducing the Spanish language in national study plans, which amplify areas for political, institutional and economic cooperation in developing the Spanish language."

Through Memorandum Order No. 2765, Ms Arroyo directed the Department of Education (DepEd), Commission on Higher Education, and Technical Education Skills Development Authority to encourage the teaching and learning of Spanish.

Jointly funded by the education department and Agencia Española de Cooperacion Internacional para el Desarollo, the teaching of the Spanish language was piloted in 15 secondary schools nationwide for school year 2009-10.

Teachers were trained at the Instituto Cervantes in Manila last summer and are undergoing further online training, according to the DFA.

Arroyo’s biodiversity award an affront to genuine environmental activists and struggles- militant green groups

Kalikasan-PNE Press Release

12 April 2010

The biodiversity conservation award given to President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo by International Conservation Caucus Foundation (ICCF) and Global Environment Facility (GEF) is an affront to genuine environmentalists and advocates who have been struggling for their basic rights and welfare of their communities contends progressive green groups.

“What green credentials does Gloria Macapagal Arroyo have? From day one in Malacanang, Ms. Arroyo pushed for and implemented projects and policies that proved detrimental to our environment and communities. The Philippines remain one of the “hottest of the biodiversity hotspots” meaning we have one of the worst rates of forest degradation, biodiversity loss and highest number of endangered species,” said Clemente Bautista, national coordinator of Kalikasan People's Network for the Environment (Kalikasan-PNE).

“The award is not only a big lie but an insult to and a conspiracy against the struggles of the communities and environmentalists in the country and elsewhere. Add to the country being a dangerous place for flora and fauna, the country is also a hotspot for environmental defenders and vocal critics of Arroyo’s policies and projects,” said Mr. Bautista.

Kalikasan-PNE has monitored at least 27 cases of extrajudicial killings (EJK), one (1) case attempted murder, two (2) enforced disappearance and several lawsuits against environmental leaders and defenders nationwide as of March 2010. All until now, have not been served the justice they deserve.

"Many of the victims were active leaders of grassroots campaigns against large dams, commercial logging, and large-scale mining operations in their respective communities. They were very vocal in their opposition to particular environmental laws, such as the Mining Act of 1995s. Most of the slain environmental workers were also indigenous people or peasant leaders by sectoral affiliation," said Mr. Bautista.

One of the victims of the EJK is Nicanor delos Santos, a Dumagat tribe leader and Secretary-General of Makbayan Samahan ng Katutubong Dumagat (MASKADA), an indigenous people's organization which protested against the Laiban Dam project. Delos Santos was killed by suspected elements of the Task Force Panther, 2nd Division of the Philippine Army led by Ccl. Laureano Tolentino on December 8, 2001.

Last year on March 11, anti-mining activist and community leader Eliezer "Boy" BIllanes, 46, was shot while at a public market in Korondal City in Mindanao. He was the Chairperson of Alliance for Genuine Development in Mindanao that led opposition to the Tampakan Copper Gold Project in South Cotobato and vocal critic of the Xstrata Sagittarius Mine, mining operations in their area.

"It is illogical to give an award for environmental and biodiversity protection to an infamous human rights violator responsible for a total of 1188 cases of EJK and 205 enforced disappearance of her critics and activists as she cannot even protect and respect the basic rights of the people," said Clemente Bautista.

According to the group, the killings of environmental activist is just one of the countless crimes of Mrs. Arroyo against the people and environment. These human rights violations are just collateral damage, to remove the opposition and obstructions for her plunder and wholesale of our natural resources to satisfy her foreign masters and advance her self-interests," said Mr. Bautista.

The group reminded that any organization who truly represents biodiversity and environment protection and conservation would not endorse President Arroyo or 'honor' her policies and projects that gear toward liberalization and foreign control of resources.

"Considering the composition and the thrust of the organizations ICCF and GEF, it is understandable that they chose to honor Mrs. Arroyo as she has been very loyal to their corporate interests of the members of the said organizations," said Clemente Bautista.

A look at the websites of the ICCF and GEF would reveal that they are composed of transnational corporations and financial institutions who are notorious for their criminal environmental and labor practices and projects such as ExxonMobil, Wallmart, RioTinto, Nestle, Transnational Paper, Toyota and of course World Bank.

"These corporations and institutions are those that push for liberalization of our resources and those that benefit from President Arroyo's policies and projects. To honor her is to set an example and a message to other governments and institutions that they will be acknowledged and awarded if they follow suit," said Mr. Bautista.

To further show their protest, Kalikasan PNE with other sectoral and progressive group will stage a protest outside the Department of Foreign Affairs tomorrow to present the award they think is more fitting for Mrs. Arroyo, "Best in Environmental Plunder, Human Rights Violations and Foreign-Interests Conservation Award "

Reference: Clemente Bautista Jr. National Coordinator, Kalikasan-PNE 09228449787

KALIKASAN People's Network for the Environment is a network of people's organizations (POs), non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and environmental advocates. It believes that the struggle for the environment is a struggle of the people, thus all environmental action shall have the interest of the majority at their core.

National Coordinator
Kalikasan People's Network for the Environment (Kalikasan-PNE)
No.26 Matulungin St. Bgy. Central, Diliman, Quezon City, Philippines 1100
Tel. No. +63-2-9248756 Fax No. +63-2-9209099

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