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Filipino environmental groups say no to total log ban exemption

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Environmentalists have expressed dismay over Manila’s pronouncement that it will exempt the mining industry from the country’s total log ban.

Jaybee Garganera, Alyansa Tigil Mina national coordinator said, Director Leo Jasareno, of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources - Mines and Geosciences Bureau (DENR-MGB), shocked environmental groups when he announced that President Benigno Aquino will exempt the mining industry from Executive Order No. 23 in exchange for support the government’s National Greening Program.

“This pronouncement is irresponsible and questionable, and it is always painful to hear the DENR MGB Director when he always performs the role of spokesperson for the mining industry,” he said in a statement sent to the Mindanao Examiner.

Garganera said they found the pronouncement very suspicious because less than two weeks ago Aquino instructed four cabinet secretaries to craft a new mining policy and to consult the people and stakeholders in finalizing it.

Anabelle Plantilla, Haribon Foundation executive director, said: “This latest pronouncement is extremely sad and disappointing. Our government blatantly ignores our commitment to the Aichi Targets of the Convention on Biological Diversity one of which is to reduce the rate of loss of all natural habitats including forests.”

“One of the most important ecosystems - our remaining forests - provide us with ecological services such as a steady supply of water and clean air, the value of which is even more than all the mines combined. With this exemption, we can bid our forests goodbye,” she said.

The groups said the intent of Executive Order No. 23 was to preserve and protect the forest, and in the process, protect biodiversity, increase the water retention of forests, prevent erosion and floods, enhance the capacity of carbon-capture of our forests and to ensure water supply.

By giving a special privilege to the mining industry, this selective exemption of the log ban, in effect, makes the government unable to comply or implement the Climate Change Act and the Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act.

“It is entirely senseless for a government to mandate, fund and execute a National Greening Program when the same drivers of climate change are allowed to operate unhampered in areas where carbon sinks are located,” said Rowena Bolinas, Aksyon Klima Pilipinas national coordinator.

Dr. Nina Galang, lead convenor of Green Convergence, said: the National Greening Program and mining are contradictory. “How can the government claim to be concerned about our watersheds, our soil, and our biodiversity by reforestation while destroying it with mining?” she asked.

“A large mine destroys thousand of hectares in a span of a few weeks while it takes at least 15 years for a tree to grow and hundreds of years for a forest to reach its mature stage and perform all the functions we expect from it,” Galang added.







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