BUTUAN CITY (MindaNews/03 May) – For retired Lt. Gen. William Hotchkiss III, the greatest threat to national security is not the rebels but environmental destruction.
Hotchkiss, the 24th commander of the Philippine Air Force and former Philippine Eagle Foundation president, yesterday issued a statement challenging the government to keep a close watch on the environment saying its degradation is the greatest threat to national security.
He gave the statement in an interview after he failed to join a mass protest against the ongoing mining operations in Surigao del Sur.
“I think we should preserve our last frontier and protect it for our best interest as a nation. If national security is our primary concern then it is not the rebel groups that we should be worried about but the destruction of our remaining ecosystem, our environment,” said Hotchkiss.
The retired general pointed out that during his term as the PAF commander he emphasized the importance of the environment and its protection.
“When I was young, as I fly by Caraga region, I was keen to observe its changes over the past few years. Can’t imagine the devastation we had brought upon our region’s rich natural ecosystem, our rainforest, rivers and mountains destroyed in just several years,” he said.
Hotchkiss also cited the recent standoff at the Scarborough or Panatag Shoal between the Philippines and China.
“The recent incident over the Spratlys and Scarborough Shoal proves that even China acknowledge the need for these natural reserves, as the areas are rich in marine and mineral reserves. Unless our government would act for its proper protection, we will lose this forever and other countries would benefit from it,” he said.
Hotchkiss and several groups in Surigao are now working for the protection of Mount Hilong-hilong which was recently declared as a key biodiversity area in the Philippines.
The mountain straddles Surigao and Agusan del Norte.
Since the 1990s, the US has also paid attention to the implications of environment issues like global warming on national security. An April 16, 2007 report by the Environment News Service (http://www.ens-newswire.com/ens/apr2007/2007-04-16-05.asp) said:
“In the United States, the first mention of environmental issues in the National Security Strategy (NSS), the document that periodically updates the strategy to make the nation secure, was made by President George H. W. Bush in the early 1990s. President Clinton highlighted it, and his defense secretary, William Perry, even made the environment a key point in his call for a revolution in security strategy.
“All of these officials have stated that while the environment may not be the traditional subject of security strategy discussions, environmental degradation and resource scarcity in various forms lie at the root of many of the world’s conflicts.”
The report added: “Although the environment was missing from President George W. Bush’s 2002 NSS, it was back in the next one, in 2006, possibly as a result of Hurricane Katrina. Since the Clinton era, there has been an environmental officer in the National Security Council. Now, the Military Advisory Board, a standing advisory committee composed of some of the most senior retired military personnel, has issued a report stating that global climate change represents a national security threat that could affect Americans at home.”
It further quoted retired Marine General Anthony Zinni, as having said, “We will pay to reduce greenhouse gas emissions today, . . . [o]r, we will pay the price later in military terms.” (Erwin Mascarinas with a report from H. Marcos C. Mordeno/MindaNews)