Rapid ecological degradation continues under Aquino – environmental groups

April 14, 2011

MANILA — In commemoration of Earth Day, environmental groups tackled the state of the Philippine environment and their assessment of almost a year of the Aquino administration on natural resource management and environmental protection. The group led by Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment and Center for Environmental Concerns, Phils presented the following findings in a forum in the University of the Philippines.

· Rapid loss of forest cover. Without immediate and decisive intervention, our remaining forest cover will forever be lost in less than 40 years with the current deforestation rate of 157,400 hectares per year (2000-2005).[1]

· Continuing degradation. Most of our forests are bound to be degraded particularly from large-scale mining and commercial logging. A total of 1,136,959 hectares of land is under mining concessions and another 1,422,190 hectares under logging concessions.

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· Increasing dependence on and extraction of dirty fossil fuels. There is a rapid rise in coal extraction in the country. In the first half of 2010 coal production has reached 3.6 million metric tons (MMT), 38% more than the production during the same period in 2009. While total coal output in 2009 of 4.7 MMT is 29.9% more than the total output in 2008. Ten more coal power plants are planned to be constructed in the coming years, a time when the whole world are scrambling of ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

· High rate of biodiversity loss. The Philippines is the 4th country in Asia and the Pacific with the highest number of threatened species in 2008.[2] Ninety eight percent of coral reefs are degraded.

· Continuing human rights violations of environmental advocates. Six environmental activists have been killed under the Aquino administration. The other 33 cases of killings of environmentalist activists since 2001 remain unresolved.

“The main causes of environmental degradation in the country are rooted in the economic programs and policies of the government. Deforestation, depletion and contamination of water resources, worsening air pollution, and biodiversity loss will persist as long as government persists in its framework of regarding our resources as mere parts of a production line for export,” said Frances Quimpo, executive director of environmental research organization CEC Phils.

In the last 30 years, 70% of mangrove cover has been lost, and only 140,000 hectares remain in 2008. Twenty-one percent of the country’s agricultural lands and 36 percent of non-agricultural lands are moderately or severely eroded.

“The policies and programs of the Aquino administration in terms of environmental protection and natural resource management remain basically the same with the previous Arroyo administration. Our natural resources like timbers, fossil fuels, and minerals are extracted and commoditized to provide the needed income from the government. Instead of prioritizing the rehabilitation and protection of our environment, the Aquino administration continues to implement environmentally destructive and resource depleting policies and programs of the old regime of Arroyo.” explained Clemente Bautista, national coordinator of Kalikasan PNE.

“That is why, even the Aquino administration positively declared a logging moratorium, it failed to stop big commercial loggers and foreign mining corporations to stop their operations destructive to our forest. The control and utilization of our natural resources remain in the hands of foreign and big private corporations.” Bautista ended. #

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