MAC: Mines and Communities

A Policy Of Contradictions And Amusing Presumptions

Published by MAC on 2006-12-05
Source: Philippine Daily Inquirer

A policy of contradictions and amusing presumptions

Philippine Daily Inquirer

5 December 2006

December 5, 2006 issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer

PRESIDENT Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo's recent executive order outlining the National Policy on Biological Diversity -- signed Nov. 8 on Isla Verde in Batangas province -- is not without its contradictions and amusing presumptions.

Her professed "support" for terrestrial and marine biodiversity is contradicted by the reality that many of her pet economic policies pose threats to the stability of our natural ecosystems. For instance, the Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA) is an environmental and economic menace because it provides a policy loophole for the export of toxic and hazardous wastes into the Philippines, aggravating our country's looming waste and pollution problem and further endangering the people's health. Its easing of trade restrictions for foreign-owned commercial fishing trawlers will also intensify the over-extraction of fish and marine resources from our ecosystems.

The government's inability to curb legal -- and illegal -- commercial logging also contributes to large-scale biodiversity loss. Rapid denudation of our existing forest covers due to logging has been an exacerbating factor in environmental tragedies such as the 2003 Southern Leyte landslide and the 2004 Aurora-Quezon flashflood. But since January 2001 through June 2004, the Arroyo administration has granted 23 new Integrated Forest Management Agreements (IFMAs), which allow logging in nearly 200,000 hectares of forest areas.

Biodiversity is also threatened by the mining operations of foreign transnational companies (TNCs), which is blatantly encouraged under the Mining Act of 1995 and President Arroyo's mining revitalization policy. The government has approved mining operations despite clamors for large-scale mining moratoriums in areas classified as environmentally critical (such as Rapu-Rapu island in Albay province).

President Arroyo said that we could be "tops in biodiversity only if we alleviate the poverty that forces people to exploit them mindlessly." This conveniently omits the fact that the primary exploiters of our biodiversity are the TNCs, which, by their sheer size and extractive capacity, have contributed the most to environmental devastation in the Philippines. Unfortunately, the Arroyo administration has chosen to coddle exploitative foreign TNCs instead of subjecting them to accountability and prosecution for their abuses.

LISA ITO, public information officer and CLEMENTE BAUTISTA, national coordinator, Kalikasan-Peoples' Network for the Environment Kalikasan-PN

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