NGOs call on Philippine presidential candidates to support environment agenda
Press Release Date: April 22, 2016
Location: Manila, Philippines
As the nation celebrates Earth Day, civil society groups have expressed concern about the lack of a solid stand from presidential candidates on environment issues, despite the vulnerability of the Philippines’ natural resources to climate change and other threats.
Weeks before the May 9 elections, Oceana has teamed up with other non-government organizations, church groups, and the academe in a civil society coalition called Green Thumb to press for substantive discussion on environment issues during presidential debates.
The Commission on Elections and media organizations have conducted two presidential debates so far, and the final leg will be held on April 24 at the University of Pangasinan in Dagupan City.
During the presidential debate in Cebu last month, around 3,000 members of civil society groups held a rally to call for genuine discussion of environment issues in the debates.
“There was no definitive commitment from our presidential candidates to work in protecting our environment, including our oceans and the livelihood of those most dependent on our degraded and vanishing resources,” said lawyer Gloria Estenzo Ramos, Vice President for Oceana Philippines.
“Our fisherfolk are the poorest sector in the Philippines, but so far there are no clear and time-bound platforms on sustainable fisheries management in the candidates’ electoral agenda,” she noted.
The Biodiversity Management Bureau (BMB) reported that the Philippines is home to more than 52,177 endemic species, making it one of the 18 megadiverse countries in the world. World-famous marine scientist Kent Carpenter has described the Philippines as the “center of the center of marine biodiversity” in the world.
The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources has noted that heavy exploitation of fisheries translates into lower catch and income for coastal communities.
“We are all reliant on a thriving ocean for food, work, oxygen, as carbon sink, and ultimately our life. The ocean is our shared life support and the responsibility to protect it falls on everyone, especially those mandated to protect it. But the subject matter was not even touched upon as an important electoral issue, just like the global threat of climate change,” Ramos said.
Environment problems such as illegal fishing, expansion of coal fired-power plants, deforestation, and mining are some of the urgent environment concerns that need to be addressed in the Philippines.
Ramos noted that the country has one of the best environment laws in the world, but many are not implemented properly due to lack of political will from government leaders. These include the solid waste management, fisheries management and protected area legislation that were enacted more than a decade ago.
“We need government leaders who will champion the environment and put their heart in protecting it. This is necessary so we can move forward and leave behind a bountiful country for our already extremely marginalized sectors and the future generation,” Ramos said.