26 Matulungin St. Central Dist., Diliman, Quezon City, Philippines, 1100
Tel./Fax; +632-920-9099 E-mail: secretariat@kalikasan.net  Website: www.kalikasan.net

02 May 2017

Greens reiterate support for confirmation of ‘eco-warriors’ Lopez, Taguiwalo, and Mariano

The Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment (Kalikasan PNE) unites with fellow people’s movements in support of the confirmation of Environment Secretary Gina Lopez, Welfare Secretary Judy Taguiwalo, and Agrarian Reform Secretary Rafael ‘Ka Paeng’ Mariano. These three ‘eco-warriors’ in the Duterte Cabinet represent the progressive, pro-people, and pro-environment reform team of the Duterte administration and deserve to be confirmed.

Sec. Lopez, a known environmental crusader, made history in declaring the closure and suspension of 28 commercially operating big mines and the cancellation of 75 mining agreements located in functioning watershed areas. The extractive, export-oriented and foreign-dominated large-scale mining industry has never before confronted an adversarial state regulator that has had enough of more than two decades of plunder, destruction, and militarization of mining-affected areas.

Sec. Taguiwalo, a former faculty regent and long-time unionist in the University of the Philippines and expert in her field of social work and community development, led the charge against corruption in the Department of Social Welfare and Development. Climate activists particularly acclaimed her investigation of the previous administration’s anomalies in the Emergency Shelter Assistance fund meant for Super Typhoon Yolanda survivors.

Sec. Mariano, the first progressive peasant leader to become the head of the land reform agency, took bold steps to accelerate the distribution of land to the tillers and protect agricultural lands. Ka Paeng declared the landmark freeze order against the conversion of agricultural land use, especially into agribusiness plantations that encroach on farms and forests and promote harmful agrochemicals.

Powerful big business, landlord, and militarist interests, some entrenched deeply in the Duterte administration itself, are orchestrating the sabotage of these progressive leaders’ confirmation to undermine their reforms.

Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez, himself an owner of big mining interests, is the biggest figurehead of mining corporations opposing Sec. Lopez. Corrupt congressmen in the House of Representatives are opposing Sec. Taguiwalo’s defiance against hidden pork barrel embedded in the DSWD budget. The Duterte admin’s entire team of economic managers want Ka Paeng out for hampering the unbridled expansion of destructive plantations.

The Commission on Appointments itself is full of politicians with big business and landlord interests who did not have the delicadeza to recuse themselves from the confirmation hearings when they clearly have conflict of interest.

We urge President Rodrigo Duterte to remain steadfast in supporting the progressive bloc in the Cabinet against the oligarchic stooges who continue to undermine his promise for meaningful reforms. Duterte should directly intercede in the CA to push through the confirmation of his tried and tested reform team. We will mobilize our ranks on May 3, the May-Day hearing of the CA, to demand nothing less than the full confirmation of Gina, Judy, and Ka Paeng, and the continuation of their groundbreaking plans of action.#

Reference: Clemente Bautista, national coordinator, Kalikasan PNE – +639054325211

Confirm Sec. Rafael Mariano, Sec. Judy Taguiwalo, and Sec. Gina Lopez
An open letter by concerned Filipinos living in the United States to the Philippine Commission on Appointments

We, concerned Filipinos living in the US call on the Commission on Appointments in the Philippine Congress to confirm Sec. Rafael Mariano, Sec. Judy Taguiwalo, and Sec. Gina Lopez, as secretaries for Agrarian Reform, Social Welfare and Development, and Environment, respectively, on their hearing on May 3. We fully support the efforts of these secretaries to genuinely protect the rights and welfare of the most underprivileged, under-resourced, and exploited people in the Philippines.

These secretaries are far from business-as-usual politics. Since their appointment, Mariano, Taguiwalo, and Lopez have served as good models for what democracy can look like when a government actually serves the needs of the majority versus the interests of the elite few.

The Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) has upheld the rights of farmworkers to genuine land reform, opposing the various ways big landowners have used to trick reform beneficiaries into “selling” or “leasing” the land the farmworkers rightfully own. Sec. Mariano has also exposed former President Benigno Aquino III for turning a blind eye to the recruitment of seasonal contractual sugar farmers to work in slave-like conditions on Hacienda Luisita, a large plot of land owned by his family.

Meanwhile, the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) set aside almost 1 billion pesos worth of standby funds and relief supply in preparation for the impact of ‘Carina,’ a severe tropical storm affecting parts of southern Luzon and eastern Visayas. This is in stark contrast to the previous administration’s handling of Typhoon Yolanda when the DSWD failed to utilize nearly 8 million pesos worth of foreign and local cash donations.

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has shown deep commitment to Filipinos especially to the poor indigenous people by ordering the cancellation of 75 mining contracts and suspending over 20 mining operations due to the destruction of watersheds.

Many of us have participated in educational programs and relief and solidarity missions to the Philippines where we witnessed the everyday conditions of the Filipino people. We understand that social injustice is a systemic problem being perpetrated by corrupt government officials whose financial investments grow off the suffering of the Filipino people. Secretaries Mariano, Taguiwalo, and Lopez go against the grain of the status quo by firmly standing for social justice and against agrarian backwardness, privatization of social services, and environmental destruction.

We also recognize the importance of the scope of work of their three departments to realizing the main agenda item of the ongoing Peace Talks between the GRP and CPP-NPA-NDFP, the Comprehensive Agreement on Socio-Economic Reforms. Essentially, these talks strive to address the root problems of mass poverty, chronic joblessness and socioeconomic inequality that have given rise to the armed conflict in the Philippines. Sec. Lopez’ statement on Earth Day “If you look at the history of the NPA, why did they go to the mountains? Because they were dissatisfied with what is happening in the country. The reason for the NPA and MILF is social injustice. If people are happy, taken care of, and well, then why would they fight?” highlights the integral need to solve these root problems.

These are the same reasons that force 6000 Filipinos everyday to leave their families behind in search for work abroad. The Filipino people in the Philippines and abroad can benefit from concrete reforms being implemented by these secretaries — reforms that aim to allocate resources back to the majority of the Filipino people instead of a few landlord and corporate families.

We demand that the members of the Commission on Appointments fulfill their sworn duty of serving the Filipino people and confirm Secretaries Mariano, Taguiwalo, and Lopez into President Duterte’s cabinet for they truly represent the majority of the Filipino people, a most welcome change in Philippine politics. A negative vote on their confirmation would be a betrayal to the interests of the Filipino people.

Open Letter online form can be found here

This open letter is authored by the National Alliance for Filipino Concerns (NAFCON) and Kapit Bisig Kabataan Network (KBKN). NAFCON is a multi-issue alliance of Filipino organizations and individuals in the United States serving to protect the rights and welfare of Filipinos by fighting for social, economic, and racial justice and equality. At present, NAFCON members encompass over 23 cities in the US. KBKN is a Filipino-American youth and student led relief network built in response to Typhoon Haiyan, comprised of 21 organizations and 13 universities across the United States. For more information, please email info@nafconusa.org.

National Secretariat
Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment
26 Matulungin St. Central District, Diliman, Quezon City, Philippines, 1100
Tel: 02 920 90 99 | E-mail: secretariat@kalikasan.net | Site: www.kalikasan.net