03 January 2010

A Green Wish List for 2010 Presidential Aspirants Feast of the Epiphany

Quezon City. Green advocates are wrapping up the festive holidays with a “ green wish list” that will be sent to all presidential aspirants on the Epiphany – the end of the Christmas season - to urge them to offer environmental policies, deeds and actions as their “gifts” to the Filipino nation.

The Epiphany, according to the EcoWaste Coalition, is a fitting time for citizens to ask those seeking to lead the highest political office for “gifts” that will address the ecological crisis facing the country. Just as the Three Kings brought gifts to the Christ Child as acts of respect and adoration, the EcoWaste Coalition hopes that the presidential wannabes will grant its wish list and commit to green leadership and governance.

The waste and pollution watchdog drew ideas from over a dozen health and environmental advocates who replied to these questions just before we bade 2009 goodbye: how would you like presidential aspirants to conduct their campaigns?; what issues would you like them to include and prioritize in their electoral platforms?

Respondents include Arugaan/Save the Babies Coalition, Ban Toxics, Concerned Citizens Against Pollution (COCAP), Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA), Global Legal Action on Climate Change (GLACC-Cebu), Framework Convention on Tobacco Control Alliance Philippines (FCAP), Institute for Educational and Ecological Alternatives (IDEAS), Krusada sa Kalikasan, Interface Development Interventions (IDIS), November 17 Movement, Task Force Sierra Madre, Sherilyn Siy and Caloocan Bishop Deogracias Iñiguez.

The informal survey via e-mail and text led to a “green wish list” that in some way mirrors our nation’s quest for ecological reforms. The list, which is a work in progress, is clustered into three
sections (electoral campaign strategies, priority environmental issues, and specific environmental action points).


I. ELECTORAL CAMPAIGN STRATEGIES

In terms of electoral campaign strategies, some respondents wished that all presidential candidates will:

a. publicly proclaim a commitment not to harm Mother Earth in the battle for voters’ support;

b. incorporate essential waste prevention and reduction techniques in the strategy to win votes;

c. desist from excessive spending even if expenses are supposedly paid for by friends and supporters;

d. refrain from using campaign materials that are hardly reused or recycled such as confetti, buntings and balloons;

e. set zero tolerance policy on litter and trash in all campaign activities, ensuring that campaign venues are cleaned up after the event.; and

f. spare the trees, lamp posts, bridges and buses of campaign materials and stick to Comelec-designated common poster areas.

“We hope that all presidential bets will lead by example and insist on a national campaign strategy that will proactively curb wasteful practices and protect, not ruin, the environment,” said Manny Calonzo of EcoWaste Coalition and GAIA.

With regard to campaign finance, tobacco control advocate Dr. Maricar Limpin of FCAP wished that “candidates will not to accept campaign donations from industries, particularly from tobacco, oil and other companies so that they will not be beholden to their corporate interests.”


II. PRIORITY ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUES

In terms of issues, respondents felt that presidential candidates should come out strongly on vital issues such as climate change mitigation, public health improvement, disaster prevention and preparedness, reforestation, mining policy shift, clean renewable energy development, zero waste resource management, and chemicals policy reforms.

“Presidential wannabes need to be fully aware of the real threats posed by climate change on our way of life and our life support systems. What will be their priority measures to mitigate its impact? The public has to know,” said Atty. Gloria Estenzo-Ramos of GLACC-Cebu.

For Rene Pineda of COCAP, presidential wannabes should stand by the Philippine Agenda 21 or PA21, our national agenda for sustainable development. “I have only one wish: the candidates should strictly adhere to and mandatorily comply with PA21 as this will address a good number of our nation’s predicaments.”

Other respondents emphasized the need for the recognition of rights-based approach to development that will, among others, respect the rights of indigenous peoples to their ancestral domains, oppose development aggression and ensure people’s participation in the whole development process.


III. SPECIFIC ENVIRONMENTAL ACTION POINTS

In terms of specific action points, respondents listed several proposals that they hope the next President will prioritize during his/her first 100 days in office. These are:

a. close, cleanup and rehabilitate illegal dumpsites that the outgoing administration dismally failed to do despite oft-repeated pledge to enforce the ban on dumping;

b. adopt a Zero Waste national policy and action plan as a key strategy for climate change mitigation, resource conservation and sustainable livelihood and enterprise development;

c. phase out, ban or impose appropriate levies on plastic bags, styrofoam, and other environmentally problematic packaging materials that consume lots of energy to produce and create huge disposal problems;

d. strengthen the enforcement of the Clean Air Act, Toxic Substances and Hazardous and Nuclear Wastes Act, Ecological Solid Waste Management Act, Clean Water Act and related laws, while ensuring adequate budget for their effective enforcement;

e. eliminate lead paints and implement stringent regulations that will get rid of lead, mercury, bisphenol A, phthalates, brominated flame retardants and other chemicals of concern in common consumer products;

f. implement an ecological and practical system for the management of mercury-containing waste lamps and other mercury-containing discards to avert pollution from indiscriminate disposal;

g. support lawmakers’ petition to cancel loan payments to Austria for decommissioned incinerators, and to act against other fraudulent, illegitimate and wasteful debts;

h. promote policies that will uphold and operationalize the principles of the public right-to-know, environmental justice, polluter pays, toxics use reduction and substitution

i. put a monetary value on resource conservation and protection and pollution prevention and reduction.

j. integrate the concepts of environmental harm and benefits in all aspects of decision-making, including and most importantly in economic decisions.

k. stop the deforestation of our remaining forests to cut greenhouse gas emissions, arrest biodiversity loss and prevent soil erosion and floods;

l. promote the passage of the Alternative People’s Mining Act and protect local communities and natural resources from large-scale, environmentally-destructive mining operations;

m. promote a switch to pesticide-free organic farming, refuse genetically-modified organisms and prohibit destructive practices such as the aerial application of agrochemicals;

n. protect breastmilk, the first complete and Zero Waste food, from the unethical marketing of breastmilk “substitutes”;

o. promote production and consumption of all the “Bahay Kubo” vegetables which are rich in calcium and other nutrients to cut importation of dairy foods that can cause allergy and asthma for lactose intolerant Pinoys;

p. fix the public transportation system to make it more efficient and up to global standards and make sidewalks wide to encourage people to walk, thus reducing fuel consumption and greenhouse gas releases;

q. ban firecrackers, fireworks as well as homemade pyrotechnic devices that harm humans, animals and the ecosystems

r. accord the environment with a full government agency devoted to resource protection and endow it with adequate financial resources to ensure a properly functioning agency

The EcoWaste Coalition hopes that all presidential candidates will walk their talk and set ambitious goals and targets to translate the above “green wish list” into action. There is no time to waste, and we hope to see progress on most, if not all, of these concerns and proposals in 2010, the Coalition emphasized.


Note: Epiphany is originally celebrated on the 12th day after Christmas, but is now celebrated on the first Sunday of the year.

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