Davao group proposes 8-point environment agenda to Duterte

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/23 May) – The Davao City Sustainable Movement has asked incoming President Rodrigo Duterte to adopt an eight-point environment agenda that must be acted upon within his six-year term.

Released a month after the Philippines signed the Paris agreement on climate change on April 22, the proposal includes some of the city’s landmark environmental ordinances that the group said should be replicated at the national level.

In a three-page proposal, the group called for the amendment of Presidential Decree No. 1607, or the Philippine Water Code, to devolve the assessment and monitoring functions of the National Water Resource Board (NWRB).

Speaking to reporters in Monday’s Kapehan sa Davao at SM City, Mary Ann Fuertes, executive director of Interface Development Interventions (IDIS) Inc. said local government units cannot act local on water resource issues due to the centralization of “power to issue or cancel water permits and monitor illegal or legal water extractions” to the board.

IDIS is part of the 11-member Davao City Sustainable Movement.

The group said the Code’s provisions on measure and limit of water appropriations are unclear, giving the “board a wide range of discretion which will eventually lead to corruption.”

It cited the city’s Ordinance No. 117-01, also known as the “Water Code of Davao City, which seeks to protect and manage the water resources to ensure continued use for present and future generations.”

Fuertes urged the 17th Congress to amend the code to include strong demand-supply management provisions that would address supply shortages due to climate change.

The group also wanted to strengthen PD 1586, or the Philippine Environmental Impact Statement System, by amending the implementing rules and regulations that “go against the law’s principles.”

It said the law contains provisions that allow project proponents to avoid compliance with its requirements.

“It also limits people’s participation since the current procedural manual made it non-mandatory to conduct public hearing as this is limited only to the new projects which environmental critical. Such provision may even be waived by the project proponent in the absence of any mounting opposition from the community affected,” it added.

It added that environmental standards on air missions and water effluents are obsolete and not compliant with the latest international standards.

The group asked Duterte to support sustainable agricultural practices to enhance food security. It suggested intensifying support for the organic agriculture and the small farmers.

The group defines sustainable agriculture as “the production of safe and climate-resilient crops which are not dependent on toxic chemical outputs.”

Fuertes said they are hoping that incoming Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol would prioritize the interest of the small farmers, citing it is the small farmers who feed most of the population.

“It is the small farmers who feed the people. Big companies don’t address food security because they don’t grow commodity products,” she said.

The group further pushed for a National Land Use Act.

“Competing land use laws have resulted to inaccurate and irrational planning among LGUs, which, when combined with poor implementation of land use plans are recipes for environmental disasters like floods and landslides, destroying communities and properties,” it said.

It urged a stop to the use of aerial spraying of pesticides and fungicides, citing the example set by Davao City as the first local government to ban the practice despite opposition from the banana plantations.

It proposed to strengthen policies on renewable energy and prohibit construction of coal-fired power plants because “it is  more practical to invest on renewable energies than non-renewables.”

Fuertes was elated that Duterte signified interest in renewable energy projects.

“Similarly, government mechanisms should be available to enable ordinary people to access renewable energy sources at no additional or less costs,” the group’s proposal said.

The Duterte administration must abolish the Philippine Mining Act of 1995 as the “effect of mining to the environment has always been negative,” it said.

“Further, flaws in the policy have allowed unregulated or unmonitored mining activities throughout the country,” it said, citing the city’s ordinance making the city off-limits to mining activities.

Fuertes added the group calls on the incoming administration to increase green space in urban areas and assess the implementation of the National Greening Program.

“Sustainable cities require green spaces to offset the negative effects brought by climate change to urban spaces… A balance must be achieved between economic and social prosperity, and environmental stability if urban cities are to fully develop according to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals,” the proposal said.  (Antonio L. Colina IV/MindaNews)