By SHERWIN DE VERA
BAGUIO CITY — Environmental advocates across the country gathered at Hotel Albergo in this city on Monday, August 20, for the annual State of the Nature Assessment (Green SONA) organized by Green Convergence (GC). This year’s theme, “Environmental monsters are back; Superheroes needed!” underscored the call for action to protect the environment.
The group’s president, Dr. Angelina Galang, said the activity does not only provide venue to review the state of the environment but also explain why there are technologies that environmental advocates reject.
Speakers discussed the dangers posed by genetically modified organisms (GMO), incineration and nuclear power, and large-scale mining and giant dams to the ecosystem. They also explained the flaws of present environmental laws and government programs related to their topics.
Unsafe power sources
“The environment and people’s health take primacy over the planned revival of the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant, and the use and promotion of waste-to-energy (WtE),” stressed Dr. Jorge Emmanuel.
He shared studies made by international institutions and by the panel of experts commissioned by the Philippine government from 1986 to 1992. The findings said BNPP is unsafe and dangerous for operation, and too costly to repair.
Emmanuel added that management of radioactive waste from nuclear power plants remains to be a top problem and threat worldwide.
He also criticized the government’s promotion of WtE that runs contrary to Clean Air Act (RA 8749) and the law on solid waste disposal (RA 9003) pointing WtE is actually incineration, prohibited under the two legislations.
Emmanuel a former Chief Technical Advisor of the United Nations Development Program on global health-care waste projects underscored that WtE plants produce a variety of pollutants, such as dioxins, that include 2,3,7,8-tetrachloro-dibenzo-p-dioxin, known as the most toxic compound.
He said dioxin levels released in varying levels over time and the government “has no capability to continuously monitor dioxins in the environment.”
Instead of encouraging commercialization of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), the government should instead seriously promote organic agriculture. This was the theme discussed by Dr. Chito Medina of Magsasaka at Siyentipiko para sa Pag-unlad ng Agrikultura (MASIPAG).
“Organic farming does not only focus on the being technical of ‘being organic’ but should consider the issue of social justice,” said Medina, adding, “the problem is organic farming is still budding in the country yet the government is already nipping it down by stressing more on regulations.”
He said there are already 62 GMOs approved for commercial use since December 2002 but only two seeds for commercial planting, Bt Corn and RR Corn, were given the go signal so far. Others are contained in imported consumer products and animal feeds use in large farms.
“The problem with GMOs besides health safety is its narrow genetic adaptation instead of targeting it to adapt to broader environmental challenges,” explained Medina in mixed English and Filipino.
Citing studies conducted worldwide, Medina elaborated the detrimental health and environmental effects of Bt and RR Corn. He explained that chemicals found in GM crops cause tumors, cancers, autism, birth defects and other diseases.
His institution is also fighting the approval of golden rice for commercial production. The GM crop designed to produce beta-carotene is set for final field testing in San Mariano, Isabela and Batac, Ilocos Norte.
He said proponent conducted no tests to ascertain the crop’s safety, only field trials for its agronomic traits that also failed to produce favorable results.
Continuing forest lost
The head of Forest Foundation Philippines (FFP), Atty. Jose Canivel, discussed the situation of the country’s forest cover and reforestation efforts.
“We are planting billions worth of seedlings under the National Greening Program (NGP) but we continue to lose our old growth forest, and mature and seed bearing native trees,” the lawyer said.
He lamented that despite having more than 3000 woody plants in the Philippines, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources is mainly planting Mahogany, Gmelina and Falcata, all introduced and exotic species.
Canivel also shared that according to their study, seedlings utilized for the program mainly comes from six large nurseries mostly owned by individuals with connections in the department.
A key problem, according to him, is the absence of a forest management framework. Forest policy that is in effect is Presidential Decree 705 that focuses mainly on the creation and management of forest for industrial purposes.
FFP has lobbied for the Forest Resources Management Bill since the 13th Congress, but it has yet to pass the committee level.
“What we have been lobbying for 20 years is for us to have an appropriate forest policy for our present condition,” he said.# nordis.net