MANILA, Philippines – A network of over 40 civil society organizations launched the Green Thumb Coalition on Friday, February 5, challenging presidential bets to put environmental issues at the center of their campaigns.
Celebrity and environment advocate Enchong Dee joined the coalition during its kick off event at the University of the Philippines Diliman, in a bid to encourage the youth and online community to support the voter awareness campaign.
“My next president is the one who stands for the environment, ecotourism and agribuisness. Say no to those who are for deforestation, mining, and (to those who simply don’t) care about our environment,” he said in an Instagram post that used the hashtag #greenthumb2016.
Climate change, mining, GMOs
The coalition, composed of environmental groups and communities, gathered to kick off an awareness drive on environmental concerns and related issues on poverty and corruption.
It hopes to get the commitment of national and local candidates to embrace a green agenda, and hold newly elected public officials accountable on their promises.
“Protecting the environment directly translates to social and economic benefits for the nation as a whole, for communities, and for each Filipino, now and for many generations,” said Yeb Saño, the former Philippine climate commissioner who was recently named Executive Director of Greenpeace Southeast Asia.
“With the country’s agricultural sector now facing further threats from climate change to GMO (genetically modified organisms) invasion, we call upon all presidential candidates to support legislation and policies that would make ecological agriculture practices mandatory to protect small farmer’s interests, our biodiversity, the environment and ensure safe food for Filipinos,” Saño said.
Environmental activists also blamed the government for the country’s continued dependence on coal, one of the major sources of energy that caused climate change and pollution.
“Given that the past administration has for granted the 200, 000 MW worth of potential renewable energy in the Philippines by pursuing a coal-dependent dirty energy path, we must reiterate our support for a more sustainable, people-centered, renewable energy for all, especially with the elections coming our way,” said Gerry Arances, Convenor for the Center for Energy, Ecology and Development (CEED).
Meanwhile, other advocates urged candidates to take a position against large-scale mining that has destroyed mountains, waters, lands, and other resources.
“We must not let the proliferation of large-scale, environmentally-destructive mining which terrorizes local vulnerable communities’ safety, health and livelihood carry over to the next administration,” stressed Alyansa Tigil Mina (ATM) national coordinator Jaybee Garganera, citing the upsurge of approved mining permits during the Aquino government.
9-point environmental agenda
The Green Thumb Coalition vowed to engage candidates and the voting public by raising the debate on the following 9 environmental issues:
- Biodiversity and ecosystem integrity
- Natural resource and land use management and governance
- Human rights and integrity of creation
- Climate justice
- Mining, extractives and mineral resource management
- Energy transformation and democracy
- Sustainable food sovereignty
- People-centered sustainable development
The coaltion plans to hold a series of forums across the country leading up to the elections in May. The provinces that the advocates will visit include Batangas, Palawan, Zambales, Sorsogon, Mindoro, Tuguegarao, Antique, Iloilo, Guimaras, Samar, Leyte, Cebu, SOCSARGEN, Davao, Zamboanga, and CARAGA – Rappler.com