After President Rodrigo R. Duterte delivered his 5th State of the Nation Address at Batasang Pambansa last July 27, 2020, the Interfacing Development Interventions for Sustainability (IDIS) finds the SONA underwhelming in terms of tackling several pressing environmental concerns and push for better environmental protection and governance.
In his speech, the lack of discussion regarding the concrete government programs and plans highlighting sustainable solutions towards a better normal which should include recovery plans, preparing the country against more future crises, and strategies to sever us from our past ways that led us to various environmental dilemmas further reflected that the government has insubstantial environmental agenda and merely resolving tip of the iceberg problems.
There were several expectations on PRRD’s SONA which include the mandate for the strict implementation of existing environmental policies, penalize environmental polluters, and declare to implement massive environmental (forest, river systems, watersheds) rehabilitation. IDIS also expected to hear that the President will not allow the resumption of the destructive/extractive mining industry as he does not allow it in Davao City. “We expected President Duterte to give a firm stand on mining as he had been very vocal publicly that the mining industry brought so much damage to the environment and host communities more than its economic benefit. As can be recalled in his 2018 SONA, he warned the mining industry to not destroy our environment or compromise our resources and that restrictive policies will be put in place. This is what we want to hear. What happened to the restrictive policies? What made DENR lift the suspension orders against the mining companies? What have been complied? How?” Atty. Mark T. Penalver, IDIS Program Coordinator, said.
IDIS also expected to hear the issues on waste management and waste importation. These issues can be addressed by ratifying the Basel Ban Agreement which will help us prevent the recurrence of foreign waste dumping via the country’s seaports and declaring Single-Use-Plastics policy as an urgent concern so it should be passed and implemented. Instead of implementing the WTE projects, LGUs should be mandated to minimize and manage the increase of municipal wastes by strictly implementing Republic Act 9003 or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act. Under this Act, the LGUs are expected to divert at least 25% of all solid waste from waste disposal facilities through reuse, recycling, and composting activities. It further provides for LGUs to establish Materials Recovery Facility. Plastic producers /manufacturers should be mandated to stop producing and selling plastics, instead they should opt for more environmentally friendly packaging.
Furthermore, as the nation is celebrating this July the National Disaster Resilience Month, IDIS expected to hear updates on the creation of Department of Disaster Management as this was stated on 2018 SONA of the President. This could be timely and relevant since the country experienced series of disasters such as floods, earthquakes, volcano eruptions, and even this pandemic.
As PRRD mentioned the continuation of the Build Build Build Program, IDIS is continuously urging the government to prevent further urban deforestation. The concrete impact of the existing Green Green Green Program under the Department of Budget and Management launched in 2018 which aims to make the country’s 145 cities more livable and sustainable through the development of public open spaces is still wanting. While the current administration is serious about implementing the massive national infrastructure development, the Green Green Green Program implementation should also be sustained.
Though, PRRD presented the government’s ‘Plant, Plant, Plant Program’ which is to benefit all farmers, fishers, and consumers nationwide amidst this pandemic. IDIS also noted and will continue to monitor the reiteration of the need to enact the National Land Use Act, the call to sustain the rehabilitation of Boracay Island and the establishment of solar power in remote schools and communities that will aid in the online schooling.
IDIS calls for the national government to come-up with coherent environmental policy agenda beyond this pandemic, particularly on environmental issues and concerns, as protecting the environment also means protecting the rights of people and communities – the right to life, health, livelihood, and the right of present and future generations to a healthy environment and a stable climate.
ATTY. MARK PENALVER