Yellow President urged to think green | Inquirer News

Yellow President urged to think green

/ 09:15 PM July 23, 2011

MANILA, Philippines—The straight path of the yellow President should be green.

So say various groups of lawmakers, environmentalists, indigenous people  and other advocates who are calling on President Benigno Aquino to be “green-minded” in his forthcoming State of the Nation Address and to support the passage of pending legislation seeking reforms in the way the country’s dwindling natural resources are managed.

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“Gawing luntian ang tuwid na daan (Make the straight path green),” is their rallying cry, a play on the “tuwid na daan” slogan of the Chief Executive.

The groups underscored their plea by holding a green parade around the Quezon City Circle on Saturday, joined by two lawmakers who dressed up as the very resources they are seeking to protect—primarily the country’s dwindling forest cover, minerals and land.

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Akbayan Representative Kaka Bag-ao came dressed as a flower, with yellow petals around her neck, green leaves on her back and glitters (symbolic of gold and other minerals) on her face. Ifugao Representative Teddy Baguilat stood proudly in his native Ifugao wear consisting of a G-string and a colorful sash. The rest of the marchers were in green shirts.

The three bills that the groups are pushing are the forest resources management bill, the national land use bill and the alternative minerals management bill.

The forest resources bill seeks to ensure that forests would be protected and managed based on ecologically sound science and a strong framework, and that it would be participatory and equitable. It seeks, among others, to delineate the boundaries of forest lands and national parks, and these areas should be conserved.

The national land use bill aims to set the government’s land-use priorities and identify areas that need to be protected for ecological purposes, and those that need to be protected from conversion to ensure food security.

The alternative minerals management bill seeks to replace the current mining act and focuses on communities, human rights and conservation of natural resources. It aims to ensure that mining would not be done at the expense of the environment and communities, and that benefits from mineral resources would be distributed equitably.

Among those who joined the march were members of Haribon, Alyansa Tigil Mina, Save the Fisheries Now Network and students of the Far Eastern University and St. Joseph’s College. The march was organized by the Campaign for Land Use Policy Now!, Sagip GUBAT, and SOS-Yamang Bayan, which are networks of civil society organizations.

Baguilat said indigenous people directly bear the brunt of activities such as irresponsible logging and indiscriminate mining, activities that defile their sacred ancestral lands and take away the trees and land from which they get their daily needs.

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Mining has forced indigenous people to move away from their native soil and has deprived them of a source of livelihood, he said.

He said the alternative mining bill he is pushing would not put a stop to all mining activities, as he acknowledges that these have a value as well.

But he said mining should be prohibited in critical areas such as watersheds, and areas that may affect irrigation activities. Sacred lands of indigenous people, such as their burial grounds, should also be spared, he added.

He lamented that some indigenous people have been coerced into supporting mining activities through the offer of money by the companies.

Baguilat said he wants the President to declare a moratorium on all mining activities while the government studies its policy on the extraction of mineral resources.

He noted that passing a law usually takes a long time, and he wants to ensure that there will be resources left once advocates succeed in bringing forth a new law on the management of natural wealth. Later on, Mr. Aquino could certify the green bills as urgent.

Bag-ao, however, hoped that any moratorium on mining should be forever. She also lamented that many of the country’s forests are becoming bare, which is why there is a pressing need for the forest resources management bill.

Western Samar Rep. Mel Sarmiento also underscored the need for forest management by warning that the planting of trees not indigenous to a province could affect the native animals and cause their population to go down. It’s not about just planting any tree, but also knowing which kind to bring to a forest, he said.

In a joint statement, the civil society networks said the bills they are pushing would see to it that the country’s ecosystem would thrive and would enable the country to be self-sufficient and able to withstand the impact of climate change.

They noted that the Philippines’ once overflowing natural resources are not enough for its booming population.

“We need to secure the resources we have left to ensure that present and future generations will continue to breathe clean air, drink clean water, eat enough food, and survive climate change impacts,” the networks said.

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TAGS: Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III, environment, Mining, News, SONA 2011
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