Candidates’ silence on climate change ‘appalling’ – environment advocate

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) -- “Our candidates are silent when it comes to [the climate change] issue. It is appalling, to say the least,” said Atty. Gloria Estevo-Ramos, vice president of Oceana Philippines during a pre-debate forum at the University of the Philippines-Cebu on Sunday (March 20).

She gave a presentation about climate change for those who attended the second Commission on Elections (Comelec)-sponsored PiliPinas presidential debate.

“We have to elect leaders who care about us and our life support system.”

Also read: Legarda on climate change: We are vulnerable, but not incapable

Ramos zeroed in on the poor state of Philippine waters, citing illegal fishing activities and the high incidence of poverty among fisherfolk. She also discussed how climate change aggravates biodiversity loss and destruction.

“These are issues are affecting all of us. We are all interconnected and [these issues] should be tackled and included in the platforms of our leaders, of our candidates,” she said. “Unfortunately, their pronouncements are rather general.”

"One candidate said we’ll encourage sustainable use of resources. What does that mean? Just encourage? Isn’t that a mandate?” she said. “Another is for the exploitation of natural resources as a source of revenue for development."

As a parting note, Ramos said: “Don’t make the environment a voiceless system.”

During the debate, the presidential candidates were asked about how the Philippines can fulfill its United Nations (UN) commitment to reduce carbon emissions by 2030.

Also read: Duterte calls the United Nations "hypocrites"

The candidates – save for Vice President Jejomar Binay who did not say anything about the issue – agreed on using clean sources of energy, such as hydroelecrtic and wind power, to limit our dependence on coal.

Mayor Rodrigo Duterte called the United Nations “hypocritical” for not imposing sanctions on industrialized countries who rely on coal for energy.

Climate change hardly discussed

Aside from the Philippines’ agreement with the UN, climate change was hardly discussed in the debate.

Duterte said “climate change does not have to be discussed,” since the country is already experiencing its effects. “El Niño is climate change,” he said.

Poe said the first thing that should be done is to relocate the 13.6 million affected residents, mostly farmers.

On Sunday, around 2,000 advocates of Greenpeace Philippines marched to the debate venue to urge the candidates to prioritize the environment in their platforms. The group has launched a campaign called “Berde Ka Ba?” to remind candidates and voters that environmental protection should be a priority election concern.