Every commemoration of Earth Day should include reflecting on the critical role of civil society organizations (CSOs) in advancing pro-people climate and environmental governance. CSOs are at the forefront of holding governments and corporations accountable for the continuing environmental degradation causing an inexorable climate crisis.
The Philippines, like many developing countries, is confronting ecological disasters of catastrophic proportions including the climate crisis. These are rooted in decades of neoliberal economic policies prioritizing profit over the people’s interests and national development.
The work of CSOs is instrumental in pushing for policies and programs that prioritize environmental protection and sustainability. Philippines CSOs are resolute in protecting the country’s environment to ensure sustainability for future generations.
Relentless catastrophes result in huge costs to the environment with corresponding health and economic costs to whole populations, as well as compromise ecological integrity. CSOs are always quick to extend support to affected communities, demand accountability, and seek justice.
When the MT Princess Empress oil spill happened in Mindoro, the Serve the People Corps-Southern Tagalog (STPC) and other environmental organizations demanded accountability from the oil polluters and aid for the affected communities. Some 36,700 families in 163 barangays and 14 municipalities have been affected by the oil spill. More than Php3 million in damages to agriculture was also conservatively estimated. These are on top of the threat the oil spill poses to the Verde Island Passage, an acclaimed center of marine biodiversity.
Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment (KPNE) and other concerned organizations and individuals advocate for preserving the Masungi Georeserve which is being proposed as the site of the new Bureau of Corrections headquarters. The Masungi Georeserve is home to rare endemic wildlife such as the Philippine Hawk Eagle and the North Luzon Cloud Rat.
Various groups – STOP Kaliwa Dam Network, the Network Opposed to Kaliwa, Kanan and Laiban Dams (NOtoKKLD), which includes local, sectoral and international organizations, are calling for a halt to the MWSS New Centennial Water Source Project, which includes the Kaliwa Dam Project. Construction of the environmentally destructive and anti-people project is under way despite failing to secure an Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC) and the legitimate free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) of the indigenous Dumagat-Remontados. The lopsided ODA loan agreement with China also has implications on Philippine sovereignty.
The Pangasinan People’s Strike for the Environment has long been campaigning against offshore magnetite mining being planned by the Iron Ore, Gold, Vanadium Resources Phils., Inc. (IOGVRI). The project covers 9,252.5 hectares in the municipalities of Sual, Labrador, Lingayen, Binmaley and Dagupan. These extractive projects will lead to coastal erosion and destroy the natural seabed landscape of the Lingayen Gulf. Existing marine ecosystems will be adversely affected.
Victories are gained from unwavering struggles. The Magsasaka at Syentipiko para sa Pag-unlad ng Agrikultura (MASIPAG) along with other CSOs and individuals have been challenging the safety of genetically modified Golden Rice and BT eggplant for many years. Aside from the environmental and health risks, they also warned of further impoverishment and economic disenfranchisement of farmers as what happened to thousands of farmers and their families who used GMO corn. Campaigning led to the Supreme Court issuing a Writ of Kalikasan to stop the commercial propagation of the GMOs. The Writ of Kalikasan affirms the people’s right to safe and affordable food.
As we celebrate Earth Day, it is important to reiterate the role of CSOs in protecting and conserving the environment and in finding a genuine solution to the climate crisis. Civil society is essential to rejecting business-as-usual-models and for advancing pro-people climate and environmental governance.
With the Earth Day 2023 theme, “Invest in our Planet,” CPDG also calls for the urgent passage of the People’s Green New Deal (PGND) in Congress. The PGND proposes measures for a just recovery from the pandemic and towards sustainable national industrialization and broad-based social and economic development.
It pushes important alternatives in key sectors: community-based waste management; just transition towards sustainable solar, wind, hydro, and geothermal energy; green spaces and commuter-centric transportation; environmental defense and climate justice; and real biodiversity and environmental conservation. It also seeks to address the massive losses and damages accumulated over decades of environmentally-destructive activities led by major carbon producers and emitters.
The PGND will ensure development where the people, especially those marginalised for so long, are not left behind. #eof#