Environmental Justice for the Philippines
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Unite for Environmental Justice in the Philippines
The Philippines is facing unprecedented destruction and pollution of its natural environment. Less than one million hectares of tropical rain forests in the Philippines remain, compared to 30 million hectares in 1950. At least one billion cubic meters of prime topsoil are eroded every year. Thirty percent of the rivers have died. There has been a tremendous loss of biodiversity on land and in waters and thus a drastic reduction in agricultural and marine productivity.
The Problem of Deforestation
Deforestation, together with its various consequences, is the principal ecological problem in the Philippines. Since the 1960s, many corporations in partnership with the Philippine government have expanded mines, logging, and plantations, uprooting vast tracks of land without genuine consideration of ecological balance and the social costs.
Due to the widespread denudation of the forests, the destruction of watersheds[i] and the massive siltation[ii] of rivers, the annihilation caused by typhoons and flooding has massively worsened in the past 20 years. The natural barriers that once aided communities to survive these storms have been destroyed by inhumane government policies and profit driven corporations. Thus, the greatest calamities and threat to the Philippine environment and to the Filipino people are not “natural” but are man-made.
The Role of the Philippine Government
Sadly, the administration of Philippine President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III has no viable plan to address the problem of deforestation and eroding watersheds. This failure has long been cited as a condition that would lead to the massive flooding, as seen by the world during Super-Typhoon Haiyan. Most of the victims of such flooding are the fisher communities and peasants who live on riverbanks, at the foot of mountainous areas and cramped shantytowns. Consequently, Aquino also has no competent plan in place to create decent and safe housing for these thousands of residents living along riverbanks and other endangered areas.
Instead, Aquino has further developed policies that cause widespread environmental destruction. This includes decades of large-scale mining and logging; the clearing of thousands of hectares of forest land to give way to the operations of multinational plantations, real estate companies and other businesses; and indiscriminate quarrying and mining activities in rivers that aggravate siltation.
Furthermore, the Aquino administration has supported increased military presence in areas that face widespread environmental destruction. The military serves to protect the interests of corporations against efforts of the community to defend their land, livelihood, and safety. They do so by aggressively discouraging protest, harassing, injuring, and even at times killing community leaders. The government carries out these acts claiming they are conducting counterinsurgency operations; however, the military is undeniably guilty of countless human rights violations against every day citizens and community leaders.
The Role of the United States
The U.S. plays a role in both aggravating the issue of environmental destruction in the country, as well as contributing to the poor human rights record of the Philippine military.
Like his predecessors, Aquino is acting within an economic framework of globalization guided by the U.S. The U.S. exerts its influence by pushing Aquino to expand and liberalize the privileges of foreign corporations and their local partners increasing their ability to exploit the abundant human and natural resources of the country at a major cost to the Filipino people and the environment. Thus profit is prioritized over people and as a result, millions of peasants and workers are left landless and unemployed, resulting in the mass exodus of Filipino migrants abroad, including migrants to the U.S.
Secondly, the U.S. is the primary funder, trainer, and supporter of a Philippine military that is complicit with thousands of human rights violations. In fact, Aquino’s administration utilizes the U.S. Counterinsurgency Guide as the model for the Philippines own counterinsurgency plan (Oplan Bayanihan).
Toward an Environmentally Sustainable Philippines
On Earth Day, April 22, 2014, the National Alliance for Filipino Concerns (NAFCON) is launching a campaign to unite all Filipinos and supporters to work toward environmental justice and sustainability in the Philippines. Due to Super-Typhoon Haiyan, the world has already witnessed the massive loss of life and destruction possible if we do not come together to address the environmental issues of the country.
Super-Typhoon Haiyan is not an isolated incident or a one-time occurrence. The United Nations has identified the Philippines as the third most vulnerable country to climate change. Since it is expected that major calamities hit the country on a regular basis, there is an urgent need to prepare proactively and respond effectively.
It is imperative that Filipinos, and all those who believe in a sustainable environment for the Philippines, hold accountable the Philippine government, the U.S. government, the politicians, and the corporations who are destroying the environment, increasing the people’s vulnerability to calamities, and violating basic human rights of the people.
Join NAFCON as we work toward environmental justice and sustainability in the Philippines. SIGN ONTO OUR NEWS LIST to get updates on future ways to participate that will aim to:
– Help rebuild communities and assist in rehabilitating the environment affected by climate-change disasters in the Philippines.
– Contribute to greater people’s access to livelihood and sustainable agriculture in the Philippines.
– Protect communities against further destruction of natural resources of the Philippines.
For more information on NAFCON, please visit us at www.nafconusa.org, call us at 415.333.6267, or mail us at 4681 Mission St. San Francisco, Ca. 94112. Please let us know if you are interested in attending any of our events hosted throughout the U.S. or joining solidarity and health missions to the Philippines.
We also welcome you to DONATE to our alliance and support our work.
NAFCON is a national multi-issue alliance of Filipino organizations and individuals in the U.S. serving to protect the rights and welfare of Filipinos by fighting for social, economic, and racial justice and equality. At present, NAFCON members encompass over 23 cities in the U.S.
[i] Watersheds can act as a natural barrier to prevent the flow of water into communities.
[ii] Siltation is silt or fine particles polluting and severely decreasing a rivers flow and vitality.