4 pressing environmental issues the next Philippine president should prioritize | News | Eco-Enterprise

Six of the presidential candidates for the 2022 Philippine elections, left to right: Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, Jr, Leni Robredo, Isko Moreno, Manny Pacquiao, Ping Lacson, Leody De Guzman. Image: Philip Amiote@Eco-Business

Six of them are considered top contenders including Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., son and namesake of the late dictator, who is the frontrunner according to the polls, despite numerous efforts against his presidential bid.

He is followed by outgoing Vice President Leni Robredo, the only woman in the race, a situation she also faced during her run for her current post six years ago.

Other candidates aspiring to succeed President Duterte are Philippine senator and world-renowned boxing champion Manny Pacquiao, Manila mayor and former movie idol Isko Moreno, senator and former police chief Ping Lacson and labor leader Leody DeGuzman.

As presidential aspirants jostle for power, Eco-Business has identified the burning environmental issues the country’s new prime minister will face as the Philippines seeks to revive its struggling economy.

1. Accelerate the transition to greener and more secure energy

Filipino consumers were warned beginning of the week of soaring electricity bills in the coming months, largely due to rising coal prices.

Electricity tariffs in the Philippines are among the highest in Southeast Asia, thanks to heavy reliance on imported fossil fuels which have risen in price.

Although the country banned the construction of new coal-fired power plants two years ago, more than three gigawatts of additional coal are waiting to come online by 2027. The outgoing administration is eyeing fossil gas and power nuclear power to enhance energy security.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has prompted calls for an embargo on oil and gas exports that support the country’s economy. This has sparked a new global energy crisis, with the unrest giving new impetus to the shift to greener and safer energy.

“Renewables are cheaper than ever to build and deploy. It provides long-term benefits without imposing volatile fuel costs on consumers, as was the problem with coal,” said Gerry Arances, convener of the Power for People Coalition, a network of civil society organizations, of communities and cooperatives mobilizing against polluting fuels.

“This is true even in terms of job creation: the Philippines’ energy plan itself indicates that renewable energy technologies can create seven times the number of jobs that fossil fuel projects can provide.

2. The environment and metal mining

The decision to lift a four-year ban on open-pit metal mining last year has been heavily criticized by environmental groups for the threats it poses to biodiversity and communities.

According to the new decree, the cancellation of the ban was intended to “revitalize the mining industry and bring significant economic benefits to the country by providing raw materials for the construction and development of other industries and increasing opportunities for ’employment in rural areas’.

However, mining companies are doing little to create jobs in the country, said Yolly Esguerra, national coordinator of the Philippine Misereor Partnership Inc., a network of 300 civil society organizations in the Philippines engaged in development issues. social, including campaigns against mining.

We recognize the role of minerals in industrialization and its potential contribution in the renewable energy and clean energy sector. [But] the next Philippine administration must ensure that no-go zones are clearly demarcated across the Philippines.

Jaybee Garganera, National Coordinator, Alyansa Tigil Mina

“The Philippine mining industry is, was, and forever will be an export-oriented industry aimed at meeting the needs of foreign countries for raw and semi-processed minerals,” she said, quoting the mining sector’s share locally in the economy. has yet to surpass the 2% share of the country’s total revenue, based on the latest government data.

Alyansa Tigil Mina (ATM), a coalition of anti-mining groups, is more open to continued mining activities as long as only certain areas are identified for operations and affected communities, especially those inhabited by indigenous peoples, are consulted in the decision.

“We recognize the role of minerals in industrialization and its potential contribution in renewable energy and the clean energy sector,” said ATM National Coordinator Jaybee Garganera, “[But] the next Philippine administration must ensure that no-go zones are clearly demarcated across the Philippines, areas that will not be disturbed or mined, due to their intrinsic value.

3. Accelerate greener transport

A cyclist crosses the newly constructed 54.71 kilometer cycle lane in Davao City in Mindanao.

A cyclist crosses a section of a newly constructed 54.71 kilometer bicycle lane in Davao City in Mindanao, as part of the government’s pandemic stimulus package. Image: Davao City Philippines 8000 Facebook Page

The government has allocated $24.8 million under the Covid-19 stimulus fund to build a 522.73-kilometre network of cycle paths on the country’s national roads, more or less the distance between the metropolitan area of Manila in the Luzon and Cebu group of islands in the Visayas.

Bicycle ownership in the country has fallen from 8% in November 2020 to 20% or 4.9 million bicycle owners in May 2021 due to the lack of public transport caused by the pandemic closures, according to a investigation by a non-profit research institute, Social Weather Station.

“The steps taken to improve mass transportation at the height of the pandemic are a start, but they are still a long way from showcasing it as a superior means of transportation – and it is important that the next president prioritizes in order to trigger a active shifts and mass public transportation,” said Ira Cruz, director of AltMobility PH, a nonprofit that advocates for sustainable and inclusive transportation in the country.

Despite an existing government policy to prioritize commuters, government agencies continue to promote infrastructure investment for private vehicles which make up around 12% of road users compared to the majority who walk, cycle or take public transport, Cruz added.

The measures taken to improve mass transport at the height of the pandemic are a start but they are still far from presenting it as a superior mode of transport.

Ira Cruz, Director, AltMobility PH

Cycling infrastructure should be encouraged in cities as it would solve public transport shortages and soaring bus and tricycle fares, said Karl Chua, Director General of the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA).

The NEDA chief noted that the contribution of the land transport sector to gross domestic product last year had fallen by 30.7%, which fell faster than GDP itself, which fell by 9, 5% during its worst post-war recession with prolonged lockdowns hitting the economy.

“Because of its strong economic ties, a sharp contraction in transportation can take the rest of the economy down significantly,” Chua said. “As we learn to live with the virus, improving access to mobility in the country is crucial to reviving the economy.”

Apart from cycling, the country is targeting a 10% increase in the penetration rate of electric vehicles by 2040 to help it reach its target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 75% between 2020 and 2030.

A invoice which proposes a national policy for the use of electric and hybrid vehicles and the establishment of electronic charging stations in the country, is now in the hands of the new administration for its approval.

4. Fight for justice: gsetting rich countries to pay for climate damage

On Monday, President Duterte called that developed countries pay for the destruction caused by the pollution they emit, saying that he hoped the next administration would do better in the fight against climate change.

The Philippines contribute less than 0.4% the climate crisis; global north is responsible for 92 percent.

President Duterte’s statements coincide with the storms and typhoons that have hit the Philippines and are becoming increasingly destructive. Super typhoons are triggered by greenhouse gas emissions from human activity. Activists are calling for the next president to champion climate justice by asking the world’s major emitters to pay for the destruction wrought by global warming.

“Climate risks now appear more frequently and are more intense. Death and loss of homes and livelihoods is an annual event in the Philippines. The only uncertainty we have every year is how bad it is going to be,” said Greenpeace activist Virginia Benosa-Llorin.

“Do we pass it off as ‘fate’ and just accept it, even when science has shown that there are entities responsible for the climate crisis? The next administration must take a stand now or never to ensure climate action and call for climate justice, to secure the future of all Filipinos,” she added.

The country is still recovering from the effects of Tropical Storm Megi, which caused flooding and landslides last week in the Visayas archipelago, killing at least 172 people.

It came four months after Super Typhoon Rai devastated swathes of the country, claiming 400 lives and over US$500,000 in damage to crops and homes.

The Philippines, ranked among the nations most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, is hit by an average of 20 storms each year.