Groups tell DENR chief: ‘Shape up or step down’

Iya Gozum

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Groups tell DENR chief: ‘Shape up or step down’

Representatives from different organizations call on the resignation of DENR Secretary Toni Yulo-Loyzaga if she "cannot reform."

Iya Gozum/Rappler

'It’s time for Secretary Yulo-Loyzaga to either shape up her act radically or step down for someone committed and capable of making the necessary changes'

MANILA, Philippines – Environmental groups on Wednesday, April 24, called for the resignation of Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Toni Yulo-Loyzaga for a slew of reasons, including the supposed inability to directly engage concerned parties over destructive infrastructure projects.

The groups, Balagbag Environmental Society, Masungi Georeserve Foundation Inc., Sibuyanons Against Mining, Zambales Ecological Society among them, released a manifesto outlining 10 demands from Loyzaga. 

“It’s time for Secretary Yulo-Loyzaga to either shape up her act radically or step down for someone committed and capable of making the necessary changes,” the manifesto read. 

These are the demands from the manifesto: 

  1. Direct community engagement is non-negotiable.
  2. Stop defending the indefensible.
  3. Abandon pseudo-science.
  4. Cease the plunder of our natural resources. 
  5. End unprofessional retaliation.
  6. Eliminate corrupt partnerships.
  7. Address conflicts of interest transparently.
  8. Overhaul environmental regulations and permitting. 
  9. Terminate bureaucratic inaction.
  10. Resign if you cannot reform. 

Groups shared a grievance about the environment secretary’s alleged inability to engage communities and civil society organizations directly.

Heidi Fernandez, executive director of Zambales Ecological Society, said they have witnessed “a disturbing pattern of neglect.”

“People’s consultations are not done thoroughly,” Fernandez said during the press briefing on Wednesday. 

“The DENR, especially the Environment Management Bureau and the Mines and Geosciences Bureau and their partners [in] private sector [have] failed to explain the negative impacts of projects such as the massive building of private ports for sand mining along the shores of Zambales,” Fernandez added.

The day before, the Philippine Misereor Partnership Incorporated (PMPI) released an open letter to Loyzaga.

“Our calls have seemingly landed on deaf ears. Is our DENR Secretary deaf? Or is she just pretending to be one? Regardless, we reiterate and echo: kung hindi po ninyo kayang gampanan ang inyong trabaho, baka panahon na po para magbitiw kayo?” the letter said.

(Regardless, we reiterate and echo: if you can’t live up to your role, maybe it’s time that you resign?)

PMPI, a network of religious and non-governmental organizations, had a representative during the press briefing on Wednesday.

In their open letter, PMPI demanded the cancellation of the Mineral Production Sharing Agreement (MPSA) extension of Hinatuan Mining Corporation in Manicani Island and the Kaliwa Dam project.

They also called for the DENR to “punish oil polluters in Verde Island, rehabilitate Boac River in Marinduque, stop seabed dredging in Zambales,” among others.

Meanwhile, anti-mining advocates from Sibuyan Island, Romblon, continue to call for the cancellation of Altai Philippines Mining Corporation (APMC) ‘s MPSA. In January 2023, Sibuyanons formed a human barricade to stop APMC trucks from transporting nickel ore. 

Elizabeth Ibañez of Sibuyanons Against Mining said they were initially hopeful about Loyzaga’s appointment because of her background.

“Kami po ay kahit na bahagya eh nagpipilit magbigay pa ng tiwala dahil noong huling pakikipagusap sabi niya– last year pa po ito– nasa discerning stage siya sa issue ng Sibuyan. Ano pa po ang dapat i-discern?”

(We are still trying to give a bit of our trust because the last time she talked to us– last year– she said she was still discerning regarding the issue in Sibuyan. What’s left to discern?) 

Besides the various experiences of groups, many civil society organizations were sidelined in the 28th United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP28) held in Dubai when they weren’t given space in the Philippine Pavilion. 

The DENR led the Philippine delegation to COP28. Loyzaga served as head of the delegation after President Ferdinand Marcos canceled his attendance at the last minute. –

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Iya Gozum

Iya Gozum covers the environment, agriculture, and science beats for Rappler.