Church, green groups give Duterte “failing mark” ahead of State of the Nation Address

July 25, 2021

Church and pro-environment groups gave President Rodrigo Duterte a failing mark one day ahead of his State of the Nation Address (SONA).

Bishop Jose Colin Bagaforo, national director of Caritas Philippines, said Duterte “failed on several counts to contribute to the realization of the national vision.”

The prelate said the country’s energy security “continues to decline” adding that the Philippines remains reliant on dirty energy sources.

Gerry Arances, convenor of Power for People Coalition, said there were many battles won in the climate and energy landscape in the last five years, but it is not because of Duterte.

He said the credit is to the “collective effort of communities and movements who braved intensifying ecological challenges and the climate of impunity that this government created.”

Arances said the country’s development directions are “currently guided by climate-blind policies and plans.”

“As Duterte delivers his last SONA, we find ourselves in a context that requires Filipinos to unite and work for a people-centered sustainable energy sector and demand leadership that would bring this about moving forward,” said Arances.

Father Antonio Labiao, lead convenor of the National Laudato Si Program of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, said Duterte has failed to respond to the international call to stop ecological injustices when he lifted the country’s mining moratorium.

On April 14, Duterte signed an order allowing the government to “enter into new mineral agreements,” which he said can usher “significant economic benefits” to the country.

“The lifting of the nine-year mining moratorium reflects how negligent the present administration is,” said Fr. Labiao.

The priest urged Duterte “to take a time off from bravado and profanities” and “focus his energy in uniting the country as we still grapple from the devastating effects of the pandemic.”

Bishop Bagaforo said that “it won’t make any difference now” to the lives of the people even if Duterte retracts his socio-economic policies that affect the environment.

“It will matter however if, at least for what remains of his term, he will show decency and integrity,” said the prelate.

In his campaign during the 2016 Presidential Elections, Duterte promised to regulate mining and land use and vowed to protect the country’s natural resources.

Green Thumb Coalition (GTC) said Duterte’s promises to protect the environment and ensure a safe and sound ecology for Filipino “have not been achieved.”

“Promises that would have lessened the impacts of COVID19 to the rural poor and indigenous peoples, if they were delivered,” the group said in a statement.

According to the group, the Duterte administration’s performance of the “nine thematic areas of Green” Agenda has consistently deteriorated since 2017.

The group said the administration failed “to properly implement our environmental laws,” “regulate the industry to reduce environmental impacts,” “push for the enactment in Congress of the Green Bills on mining, land-use, forestry, and indigenous conserved areas,” and “prepare the country for the impacts of climate change and disasters.”

GTC also slammed Duterte for his inaction on the attacks and harassment against environmental defenders.

The Philippines remains to be one of the most dangerous countries for environmental and land-rights activists, while it is also one of the most vulnerable countries to the impact of the climate crisis.

“We have learned the bitter lessons from the pandemic and the wrong choices we made in selecting incompetent and corrupt leaders,” the statement read.

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