By JANESS ANN J. ELLAO
MANILA – The Arroyo regime’s plan to change the Philippine Constitution will worsen the country’s environmental destruction and will dispossess indigenous peoples even more.
This was the consensus of several leaders of the environmental and IP movements in a recent forum at the University of the Philippines, where they took turns denouncing the administration of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo for its attempts to amend the charter despite opposition from various quarters.
Clemente Bautista, national coordinator of the environment group Kalikasan, said charter will not only allow her to stay longer in power but will also give more opportunities to big foreign corporations to own thousands of hectares of land and exploit the country’s natural resources.
“It is not a secret that Arroyo have plans to stay in power after her term but her means of doing it would eventually turn our natural resources open for exploitation,” said Esther Perez de Tagle, spokesperson of the coalition Environmental and Natural Resource Advocates for Gloria Arroyo’s Expulsion (Enraged).
As it is, foreign companies are already being allowed to control vast tracts of lands for their ventures despite the fact that, under the present Constitution, they are limited to only providing financial or technical assistance to Filipino-owned corporations.
Marvic Leonen, dean of the UP College of Law, said in the forum that there is, in fact, no need for the government to change the Constitution in order to allow foreign ownership “because it is already happening.”
Nelson Mallari of the Kalipunan ng mga Katutubonbg Mamamayan ng Pilipinas said that despite the existence of the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act, a law that guarantees equal protection and rights to the indigenous peoples, Filipino tribals are still experiencing social injustices. “How much more if they decide to amend the Constitution?” Mallari said. “They are definitely selling the sovereignty of the country.”
“The Arroyo administration continues to allow big time loggers and commercial miners to destroy our forest,” Bautista said in a statement, adding that the massive ecological devastation in the country has made the Philippines vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.
Nina Briones of the League of Youth for the Environment said the Arroyo administration failed to develop alternative and renewable sources of energy, making the country dependent on fossil fuels.
Briones also pointed out that environmental advocates have also been targeted for killings in the Philippines. She said that since Arroyo stepped to power in 2001, 24 cases of murders, two attempted murders and two enforced disappearances, have been documented.
Engraged earlier expressed its dismay over the poor environmental protection record of the current administration, saying Arroyo is “the most vicious, most disastrous” President the country has had. (Bulatlat.com)