• Mon. Feb 26th, 2024

‘More talk, less action’: Green groups call for stronger environmental and climate action ahead of Marcos’ second Zona

‘More talk, less action’: Green groups call for stronger environmental and climate action ahead of Marcos’ second Zona

MANILA, Philippines – The environmental and social impacts of the oil spill in Oriental Mindoro must be urgently addressed, destructive infrastructure projects halted and a fair transition to renewable energy prioritized in the remaining five years, President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. said.

In his first SONA, Marcos emphasized the need to shift to renewable energy, build disaster resilience and properly enforce laws on the environment.

But green groups are holding back praise until Marcos puts his words into action on environmental protection and climate change responses.

“In general, there has been a lot of talk in the first year of Marcos Jr., but little action in the right direction on environmental and climate issues,” said John Bonifacio, national coordinator of the Calicasan People’s Network for the Environment. Philstar.com.

oil spill

Nearly five months after the MT Princess Empress sank off Oriental Mindoro and spilled oil into the sea, locals and environmentalists are still calling for a concrete plan for cleanup and rehabilitation, compensation, accountability, and policy and legal reforms.

The oil spill disrupted the lives of coastal residents and damaged mangroves, seagrasses and coral reefs—the Marcos administration’s worst environmental disaster to date.

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In June, the Philippine Coast Guard said all the oil spilled from the tanker had been completely extracted. The Oriental Mindoro provincial government announced last week that it had lifted the fishing ban in Pola—the town that suffered the most damage from the oil spill.

But residents and advocates said this did not signal the end of the oil spill crisis.

“The government has no victory to claim. Long-term compensation for oil spill victims is yet to be distributed at a proper valuation. “There is no accountability from the polluters like RDC Reield Marine Services, Inc. and the San Miguel Corporation and the irresponsible authorities that caused this crisis,” Protect Verde Island Passage said in a statement.

“While discussions are underway to wind down the oil spill response, a proposed comprehensive rehabilitation plan with accompanying budget has not been publicly discussed,” it added.

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources had earlier demanded that the VIP be declared a statutory protected area. It has also been informed that it will cooperate with the local ship owners to prevent the recurrence of the oil spill.

Extractive and destructive activities

Earlier this year, residents of Sibuyan Island in Romblon blocked mining exploration activities by Altai Philippines Mining Corp., fearing that nickel ore extraction would destroy the island, dubbed the “Galapagos of Asia,” and affect local residents’ livelihoods.

Encouraged by Sibuyanon’s victory, residents of Brooks Point, Palawan also set up a barricade to block the operations of Ipilan Nickel Corporation.

They had asked the environment department to cancel the mineral production sharing agreement between the two companies.

Revitalizing the mining sector is a priority of the Marcos administration. The Philippines is the fifth most mineral-rich country in the world, producing minerals such as gold, chromium, cobalt, copper, nickel, and silver.

Green groups have called for a comprehensive review of offshore mining and offshore mining operations in Cavite province that are causing fishermen to fish away due to pollution and power. According to the anti-mining coalition Alianza Tigil Mina, there are 11 large-scale offshore mining projects across the country.

“In the midst of a climate emergency, continued destruction of nature through mining and other extractive activities is unacceptable,” ATM said.

Environmental groups have also continued to call for a halt to reclamation projects that destroy coastal ecosystems, affect the livelihoods of fishermen and expose coastal residents to floods.

According to groups under the People’s Network for the Integrity of Coastal Habitats and Ecosystems, there are about 50 restoration projects across the country that will affect 27,000 hectares of coastal and marine resources.

Climate action?

While Marcos highlighted the climate crisis as one of its top priorities, Accion Clima Pilipinas said the “comprehensive strategy for climate action is still inconsistent, inadequate and out of step with what the Philippines needs to achieve its climate and development goals.”

Greenpeace has renewed its call for governments to move away from reliance on fossil fuels and aim for greater ambition towards 100% renewable energy.

“The government is also avoiding unnecessary diversions from this transition, such as dangerous and expensive nuclear power, as well as natural gas, which is also a fossil fuel,” it said.

Marcos is trying to embrace nuclear power and develop fossil gas.

The Philippines aims to increase renewables in its current energy mix, which is expected to achieve a 35% share by 2030 and a 50% share by 2040. In 2020, only 21% of the electricity generated in the country came from renewables such as solar, wind, hydro, and geothermal.

Accion Clima Pilipinas called on the Philippines to commit to a net-zero emissions goal by 2050, finalize policy documents for adaptation and resilience-building, reduce plastic production and single-use plastics, and make the People’s Survival Fund more readily available for implementation by the most vulnerable municipalities.

“The reality is that the Philippine government’s performance in addressing the climate crisis is still inadequate,” it said.

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