A Philippine environmental advocate on Saturday urged President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. to issue a moratorium on several controversial infrastructure projects that are said to have affected or will affect local environments and residents.
Leon Dulce, national coordinator of the Kalikasan People's Network for the Environment, said during a media forum that a review of the contracts and agreements behind them must be done to see if they would protect and benefit Filipinos.
"Ang panawagan namin ay kailangan magkaroon ng omnibus na moratorium sa mga identified talaga na proyektong mapanira at madaya. Magkaroon ng moratorium until such time mareview ang contracts, agreements," Dulce said.
"Hangga’t hindi magawang ang tama ang independent review talagang malulugi lang tayo if mag-proceed ang mga proyektong ito."
Among the projects Dulce cited were the Kaliwa Dam Project in Quezon province, the San Miguel Aerocity in Bulacan, the Pasig River Expressway Project, and the Manila Bay rehabilitation project.
Community and environmental groups have in the past criticized these projects for their alleged negative impact on biodiversity and the livelihood of indigenous people.
In the case of the Kaliwa Dam, which is being built as a water source for the capital region, Dulce said there are other proposals of sustainable water projects that would not destroy nature, such as desiltation and creating a rainwater impoundment network to catch water.
"Itigil muna ang mga ito to prevent further harm on people and planet. At ‘di naman tayo malulugi kasi nandiyan lang ‘yong likas yaman, nandiyan lang ang landscape, seascape na makikinabang para sa mamamayan, pero kailangan tiyakin natin we are renegotiating for the future of people and planet, ‘di lang renegotiating kung ano ang ilalaki ng kita natin sa immediate," he added.
Dulce said big infrastructure would be “aggressively” pursued under Marcos, seeing Marcos’s appointment of officials from businesses behind some of the projects and the president’s own vow to carry on the Duterte administration’s “Build, Build, Build” program.
However, he said these economic activities must be reframed and rethought to ensure it would benefit future generations as well.
For instance, Marcos vetoing of an economic zone around the Bulacan Aerocity must be monitored in the coming months, Dulce said.
“Any new proposals patungkol doon sa Aerocity, hindi ina-address ang matagal nang naging injustices diyan. Hindi ina-address ang daan-daang pamilyang pinalayas, thousands of mangroves na pinutol diyan, hindi makapagpropose ng sufficient offset mechanism sa mawawalang mangroves. So maraming baggage ang Aerocity na tingin ko the veto will not easily address,” he said.
"Mas marami pa tayong ikasisira kapag trinato ang mining as economic recovery kaysa i-regulate ito para mapalakas ang recovery sa agrikultura at iba pang aspects ng ekonomiya,” he said.
He also hit the continuing vacancy in Marcos’s environment secretary portfolio amid the climate crisis.
"Crucial ang appointment ng DENR secretary. It comes at a time when governments of the world are being challenged by the global scientific community na kailangan na talaga ng deep and drastic climate action within this year, especially strategically over the next 3 years,” he said.
“‘Yan na lang ‘yong window of change, opportunity to change doon sa ilang global environment and climate commitments ng bansa, kasama ang Pilipinas, na kapag’ di ‘yan na-aaddress decisively, point of no return na ang planetary crisis na hinaharap natin.”
Kalikasan also criticized Marcos’ plan to revisit the revival and rehabilitation of the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant.
Dulce called the move as more on “image building” because of the plant being built by the president’s father, Ferdinand Sr.
Instead of pursuing nuclear energy, the group said the Philippines must invest more in renewable energy sources, which has a less cost in health and environmental impact.
They also called on Marcos to scrap the maintenance of the controversial Manila Bay Dolomite Beach due to its need for further quarrying.
The better alternative, Dulce said, is restoring the ecosystem in Manila Bay or reinforcing coastal stability through means other than crushed dolomite.