Part 1 of 2 of the State of the Philippine Environment Forum 2020 coverage
Featured Image from The Philippine Star
MANILA, Philippines – On Wednesday, April 22, 2020, in commemoration of the 50th Year of Earth Day, The Center for Environmental Concerns – Philippines (CEC) held a webinar about the State of the Philippine Environment in time of COVID-19 discussing the ecological challenges to the pandemic.
Together with the Kalikasan Youth Advocates for Climate Action Philippines and Earth Day Network Philippines, the webinar series aimed to discuss the environmental challenges and provide ecological solutions for the community.
During this time, the Philippines experiences environmental consequences that are aggravated by COVID-19 pandemic and the country is now facing the worst ecological crisis.
Neo-Liberalism and PH Vulnerability
Neo-liberalism is a policy model that accentuates and associated the laissez-faire economic liberalism and promotion of free-market competition.
“Neoliberalism allows the unbridled utilization of our natural resources. It devastated our environment and impoverished our people,” said Rosario Bella “RosB” Guzman, IBON’s Research Head and Executive Editor and the first speaker on the Earth Day webinar.
Guzman also reiterated that while the Philippines is first in Green Revolution, the country has still become more vulnerable to different calamities and natural disasters.
Wealth inequality has been an existing challenge in the economy and thus, various industries have contributed to the environmental destruction that resulted in deforestation and land-use change.
“In a healthy environment, forest cover must be at least 50 to 54 percent. Currently, the country has 23 percent forest cover, 10.5 percent severe, 16.6 percent moderate, and 3.2 percent very severe,” Guzman added.
Guzman furthers that the reason behind the declining forest cover and land-use change was the government’s prioritization to real estate, industrial plantation, agri-business venture, use of hybrid genetically modified crops, and large-scale mining.
In the discussion regarding Dirty Energy, Guzman explained that coal is the dirtiest fossil fuel and a major source of air pollution.
And, while there are some renewable sources of energy that the Philippines plans to utilize like the 21 hydroelectric power projects, they are not considered as renewable energy as they utilize large dams that cause changes in the ecosystem and displacement of communities.
Social Distancing and Handwashing to combat COVID-19
Social distancing and handwashing are the most effective ways to fight COVID-19 contamination. It has been prioritized by the Philippines government, LGUs, and WHO. Hence, the implementation of the Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ).
The ECQ aims to limit physical interaction in the community and the suspension of public transport, public and private work, and classes, as well as the aggressive promotion of good and proper hygiene and suspension of rotational water interruption.
While social distancing and handwashing are deemed essential and promoted, it is still considered a privilege to many, especially those who are in highly populated areas and stricken by poverty.
According to Guzman, 1 out of 4 Metro Manila residents are informal settlers and 51 percent of them are in danger areas and only a little over half of the number of families have water piped into their dwelling.
Urbanization has resulted in various community challenges that must be prioritized. The community is more vulnerable to the effects of climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic due to poverty.