On Earth Day: IBON scores foreign chambers on anti-envi agenda for new admin

April 24, 2016

by IBON Foundation

Research group IBON hit the Joint Foreign Chambers of Commerce in the Philippines (JFC) for laying down its agenda for environmental destruction and plunder for the next administration. Votes have yet to be cast but foreign big business is already maneuvering to further interests in industries such as mining, agriculture and power.

The JFC recently released policy notes asserting pro-business policies that the new president should implement. These proposals however seek to retain or expand foreign benefits and interests in key sectors to the detriment of the country’s environment and natural resources, said IBON.

In mining, JFC suggested “bold steps” for the next administration which include amending the Mining Act by mid-2017 to fully serve the interests of large-scale mining. Major provisions include 100% foreign ownership of large-scale mines and guaranteeing contracts for 50 years without changes unless mutually agreed upon. IBON said that the Mining Act, despite being touted as the blueprint for responsible mining, has resulted in a minimum of 20 mining disasters affecting rivers, forests, farms, oceans and people’s livelihoods since its passage.

For the agriculture sector, JFC recommendations include prioritizing high value crops like oil palm and rubber, as well as lifting limits on landholding. This means the further destruction of forest and biodiversity to make way for the expansion of corporate plantations. IBON noted that in Mindanao, US firms DOLE and Del Monte effectively control over 100,000 hectares and are seeking to expand. Corporate plantations are also well known for the harmful use pesticides and other chemical inputs that have led to the pollution of the land, water and air.

Energy-wise, the JFC wants the new president to uphold the Electric Power Industry Act of 2001 (EPIRA). EPIRA has led to private sector takeover of the country’s power industry, which uses environmentally destructive power generation such as coal-fired power plants, said IBON. As of 2015, there are 15 coal-fired power plants in the country with another 25 to be constructed in the next decade.

The JFC along with the Chamber of Mines in the Philippines recently stated the need for a president who would ensure pro-big business reforms in priority sectors. It can be recalled that President Aquino virtually accepted in toto the JFC’s pro-big business agenda as mirrored in the 2011-2016 Philippine Development Plan. In the last stretch of the campaign period, presidential hopefuls should instead uphold an agenda that protects the environment and reverses destructive neoliberal policies, concluded IBON.

IBON Foundation, Inc. is an independent development institution established in 1978 that provides research, education, publications, information work and advocacy support on socioeconomic issues.

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