Press Release: Green groups slam Atienza’s anti-Buhay track record
Sibuyan Island, ROMBLON – An environment group in Romblon scored Buhay Hayaan Yumabong (Buhay) party-list representative-elect Lito Atienza’s anti-life background on environmental protection. Backed by a strong Catholic charismatic renewal group El Shaddai, BUHAY party-list got three seats for the next congress as it gained victory garnering 1,265,992 votes equivalent to 4.74 percent of the total votes cast.
According to the website of Buhay, the party-list’s core principles are based on the Pledge of Allegiance to the Philippine Flag: for God, people, environment and country. In being maka-kalikasan or pro-environment, Buhay believes that the Creator gave us abundant and overflowing natural resources which must be developed and used justly for the benefit of all Filipinos and the next generation – not only for the chosen few. Buhay further sees that the Philippines was formed by God to be emulated by the world through the promotion of good and effective governance.
But Sibuyan Island Sentinels League for Environment Inc. (Sibuyan ISLE) director Rodne Galicha said in a statement that the background of former Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) secretary Lito Atienza as future lawmaker goes against the very principles of Buhay.
“One working day, on December 23, 2009, before Atienza resigned as DENR secretary to run in Manila as mayor, he signed five mineral production sharing agreement (MPSA) permits and three exploration permits. What was questionable? All these are midnight deals. How come? December 24thwas non-working holiday, 25th a regular holiday, 26th is a Saturday and 27th is Sunday. He resigned December 28th, Monday.”
Atienza stayed as head of DENR from 2007 until 2009 under the baton of former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. The lady president that period was bullishly promoting the mining industry left and right through Executive Order 270-A and the Mining Act of 1995 despite lack of social acceptability and environmental threats in communities.
“In 2007, he vowed to help us in Sibuyan as we personally delivered our petitions and opposition letters against nickel mining. After an anti-mining activist was shot to death, even the thee mayors of our island that year signed a memorandum of agreement that destructive mining shall not be allowed and the barangay councils revoked former recommendatory resolutions. But lo and behold, in 2009 he signed through a midnight deal an MPSA for 1,581 hectares of land to mine nickel, iron, cobalt, chromite and other associated mineral deposits.”
Sibuyan ISLE demanded that Atienza must be held accountable by Buhay itself, in the first place. By approving mining in Sibuyan, the source of almost 95% clean energy is threatened – Cantingas River. It is also the source of irrigation of San Fernando town’s rice granary on top of being the summer tourism capital of Sibuyan and apparently, of Romblon province as a whole.
“Being pro-life is to protect human life as a whole – not only from the Catholic Church’s claim of conception, or from birth when the fetus becomes a baby curiously staring for the first time at the kaleidoscope of Earth’s life. Protecting life in the present and in the future is as important as protecting it from conception, fertilization or birth, or else one becomes a backward pro-lifer being pro-conception, pro-fertilization or pro-birth but generally, anti-life,” said Galicha
Meanwhile, national group Alyansa Tigil Mina (ATM) coordinator Jaybee Garganera urged the national government through the Mining Industry Coordinating Council (MICC) to conduct an immediate investigation on the alleged midnight approvals and eventually revoke the license.
“As our country becomes a candidate for the Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative or EITI, transparency and accountability in governance especially in mining deals must be promoted. Although the Sibuyan license has been suspended, it must be revoked due to lack of social acceptability and threat to the environment and people’s lives.”
ATM further challenged the new elected officials in Sibuyan to stand firm and prove themselves right to defend their people. It also urged Buhay party-list to make Atienza accountable and to be true to their principle on environment by supporting pending legislations like Freedom of Information Act, National Land Use Act and Philippine Mineral Resources Act or the Alternative Minerals Management Bill.
Alyansa Tigil Mina is an alliance of mining-affected communities and their support groups of NGOs/POs and other civil society organizations who oppose the aggressive promotion of large-scale mining in the Philippines. The alliance is currently pushing for a moratorium on mining, revocation of EO 270-A, repeal of the Mining Act of 1995, and passage of the AMMB. (30)
For more information:
Rodne Galicha, Sibuyan ISLE Director, firstname.lastname@example.org, 09052850700 Jaybee Garganera, ATM National Coordinator, email@example.com, 09277617602 Farah Sevilla, Policy Research and Advocacy Officer, firstname.lastname@example.org, 0915-3313361