President Rodrigo Duterte’s fourth State of the Nation Address gushes over his so-called successes in the rehab of Boracay and Manila Bay, yet these only covers 4% of our conservative estimates of environmentally critical landscapes at risk.
First, let us be clear: Duterte’s repeated trumping up of the Boracay rehab is belied by the recent massive floods the island experienced. Boracay’s infrastructure is still in disrepair, locals are still losing control over the island’s wetlands, and the disrupted lives of thousands of workers in Boracay will never be the same.
Second, the claim that Manila Bay is well on its way towards the Boracay model of success does not in any way answer the burning question of reclamation in the bay. Duterte has remained silent on the more than 39,000 hectares of approved land reclamation projects, of which 31,609 hectares can be found in Manila Bay.
What is more alarming is that Duterte has zero mention of mining in his 4th SONA, previously a regular fixture in his written and adlib speech over the first three SONAs. We currently have more than 705,000 hectares under different tenements of large-scale mining.
Duterte has sought to open up 1.6 million hectares of lands, especially in indigenous Lumad areas, to agribusiness plantations. More than 727,000 hectares of Integrated Forest Management Areas—legal logging areas—remain untouched. This is on top of the 184,764 hectares of forest loss recorded from 2017 to 2018.
The killings of environmental defenders have also had a profound consequence. Under Duterte, at least 102 defenders have been killed by the end of 2018 with 67% involving armed state forces. In our rough estimate, these murdered defenders represented at least 1.96 million hectares of lands and seas they originally protected and nourished, now left vulnerable to poachers and destructive big businesses.
We did not even include the total area of the West Philippine Sea, now virtually controlled by China, and its interlinked waters such as the Verde Island Passage and even the Benham Rise.
At least 5.22 million hectares worth of environmental problems were unaddressed by Duterte. Only 200,432 hectares of Manila Bay and Boracay combined were the subject of Duterte’s claimed accomplishments for the environment.
We do not need a leader who has a grand delusion of his fundamentally flawed rehab programs. The people deserve a leader who will genuinely protect the environment and our national patrimony without subservience to foreign masters.#