Who is the greenest Presidentiable? (Part I)

December 2, 2021

As we are deep into the Christmas season, one of the best gifts to receive is the gift of information. It becomes even more valuable when the future of our country is at stake.

The climate and environment agenda is the most critical yet overlooked issue heading into the 2022 elections. Our experiences from both climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic have shown us that planetary health is key to achieving national sustainable development.

Addressing these issues requires political leadership with foresight, the ability to see the “big picture” in planning and implementing solutions, and an understanding of upholding social justice. These characteristics must be embodied by our next President, who has the most power to change the culture of green governance in the Philippines.

The question is: where do the six most prominent Presidential candidates stand on the climate and environment agenda?

Labor leader Leodigario “Ka Leody” Quitain de Guzman addresses the crowd during a protest mobilization in November. (Photo by Mark Z. Saludes)

Leody de Guzman

The labor leader recently called for climate justice for the marginalized sectors in the Philippines, in aid of social development. He is pushing to close down coal mines, as part of strategies to slow down global warming and reduce air pollution from dirty energy. He is also in favor of renewable energy development such as solar, which he sees as key to lower electricity rates in the country.

De Guzman has called for a repealing of the Mining Act of 1995, as he believes its terms favor the interests of corporations and place Filipinos and the environment at a disadvantage. He is against lifting the ban on waste incineration, which is key to proposed waste-to-energy facilities. Aligned with his pro-justice platform, he wants to order local investigations into extrajudicial killings, which includes environmental defenders.

On matters involving foreign relations, de Guzman expressed concerns on nuclear energy, claiming that bringing in uranium from abroad could lead to impacts on the energy sector similar to those of the importation of coal. He also agreed with environmental groups on opposing other countries unloading their waste, including plastics, on Philippine soils. If elected, he plans to keep China out of the West Philippine Sea and make it an economic zone for Southeast Asian countries.

Senator Panfilo Lacson speaks to the media after filing his certificate of candidacy (COC) to join the May 2022 presidential race at Sofitel Harbor Garden Tent in Pasay City, the Philippines on October 6, 2021. (Rouelle Umali/Xinhua/FOCAP Pool)

Ping Lacson

The current Senator has reflected his long-running stand for the rule of law and against corruption in his environmental positions. For example, he has previously criticized the Bureau of Customs for failing to prevent the illegal dumping of foreign waste, including plastics, on Philippine soils. He also favored a joint oil exploration in the West Philippine Sea with China, as long as the constitutional 60-40 share of ownership in favor of the Philippines is complied.

On the Duterte administration’s flagship programs, Lacson has publicly questioned the influx of Chinese workers for infrastructure projects, including the Kaliwa Dam. He also criticized how some barangay officials in Boracay are allegedly charging large fees to non-residents for identification cards to access the island during its rehabilitation.

Lacson has also expressed support for the ongoing rehabilitation of Manila Bay, including the controversial dolomite beach, as long as studies prove its sustainability.

He also pushed for climate change to be a bigger part of the 2022 agenda, hoping for stronger international cooperation to deal with its devastating impacts. This issue has been among the most mentioned during his consultations with various local government units as he prepares his candidacy platform.

On disaster response, he has pushed for a review of the Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act of 2010, given the worsening impacts of climate change. However, he questioned the feasibility and availability of funding for the creation of the DDR, which supposedly aims to address the identified gaps in disaster governance from the implementation of said law.

On mining, Lacson supports responsible mining in the country, as long as firms comply with environmental rules and regulations. He was criticized by environmental groups for voting “no” to Gina Lopez, an anti-mining advocate, and her confirmation as Environment and Natural Resources Secretary, although he stated the rejection was based on her fitness to lead the agency.

Former Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., son of the late dictator President Ferdinand Marcos, speaks to the media after filing his certificate of candidacy (COC) to join the May 2022 presidential race at Sofitel Harbor Garden Tent in Pasay City, the Philippines on October 6, 2021. (Rouelle Umali/Xinhua/FOCAP Pool)

Bongbong Marcos

Considered as one of the early front-runners based on surveys, Marcos has also called for stronger actions against the climate crisis. During his bid for the Vice Presidency in 2016, he called for mainstreaming climate change mitigation into national and local governance in the Philippines. 

During the 2016 campaign, he also stated that the next administration must prioritize renewable energy development to address power-related issues. He argued that continued dependence on fossil fuels could lead to even higher electricity rates for Filipinos. The leadership under Duterte, Marcos’s former ally, has not been able to begin the end of the country’s dependency on coal and transition towards an energy mix with a much higher presence of solar, wind, and hydro, among others.

Marcos, like Lacson, supports the growth of the mining sector in the Philippines, as long as it is done in sustainable ways.

Many concerns have emerged on Marcos continuing his father’s legacy, which many people have vehemently opposed. The former President pushed for projects such as the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant and the conceptualization of the now-Kaliwa Dam. Nonetheless, the younger Marcos believes that pushing through with another nuclear plant is viable and practical.

Stay tuned for part II of this piece to know about the green platforms of other Presidentiables.

This is part one of a two-article series presenting the green agenda of the six most prominent candidates for the Philippine Presidency in 2022. All positions presented here are collected from previous news articles and other publicly-available materials as of 30 November 2021.

John Leo is the Deputy Executive Director for Programs and Campaigns of Living Laudato Si’ Philippines. He has represented Philippine civil society in regional and global UN conferences on climate and the environment since 2017. Candidates may send their environment platforms to [email protected]

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