The Philippines: A wasteland republic?

Letter to the Editor, Philippine Daily Inquirer, November 4 2006
The Philippine forests are threatened
WHERE can you find a country acclaimed as a biodiversity superstar yet made out a prostitute to foreign extractive industries, even as its pristine forests are being denuded; its mountains laid bare and flattened; its fertile soil and pure aquifers poisoned and laid waste; and its precious fresh-water bodies and seas contaminated?
Where can you find a people turned into unknowing guinea pigs by unscrupulous transnational corporations in an experiment that threatens the food chain and the entire ecological fabric? The country’s rich biodiversity is being threatened by genetically engineered organisms (GEOs or GMOs), just as our farmers are realizing the advantages of organic farming over the “sophisticated” model that uses chemical pesticides and fertilizers, and an awakened world has put a higher premium on organic products and is rejecting GEOs.
To complete the national betrayal and criminal assault on the Filipino people’s environmental and human rights comes the Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA), opening the Philippines to all kinds of wastes, including toxic and hazardous wastes, from that country. The agreement degrades not only our environment but also our very humanity, dignity and self respect!
Realizing that it could not deal with dioxin contamination from incinerator ash, the Philippines, under the Clean Air Act, banned the use of incinerators. Now it will be made the dumping ground for such deadly residue. The Ecological Waste Management Act (Republic Act No. 9003) prohibits dumps. The JPEPA will make the whole country a dump. We are still struggling with our own waste problem, but Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo now wants our country to take on a bigger and more dangerous waste problem. Why?
The environment is the life-source of a large majority of our people. It must be protected for their survival. The way to deal with the mass poverty in the country is not to give doles but to protect the people’s sources of livelihood and teach them how to maximize earnings from these. “Don’t give fish. Give fishing rods and teach them how to fish,” so goes the old saying. But what if all the fish are gone — thanks to environmental abuse?
Richard Steiner, an eminent conservation specialist at the University of Alaska-Fairbanks observed: “With world attention focused almost exclusively on terrorism, another, even more serious security threat deepens — the global environmental/humanitarian crisis. Humanity is quietly destroying the biosphere in which we live, ourselves and our future along with it.” This, not terrorism, he said, is “the real clear and present danger.” Indeed, what would happen if we lose our food and water security?
To sacrifice the environment for economic development, which is dependent on the former, is self-destructive. You cannot build a nation by destroying its environment. Prosperity cannot be achieved in a wasteland.
ESTER V. PEREZ DE TAGLE, founding chair, Concerned Citizens Against Pollution

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