Updated: Mar 6
The May 2022 synchronized election is upon us. Crucial as elections have always been in charting the course of our country, this election is seen to even be more critical because the varied political, economic, social and environmental issues confronting us now are touted to be of utmost urgency that render us running against time.
We asked persons of different perspectives and expertise as to what they think are the most critical issues with regards the environment and climate change, agriculture and food security, the peace process, and indigenous peoples' rights that should be put on the table so people can engage in active and extensive conversations to guide them in choosing the best candidates.
What issues should be discussed as people make their decision on whom to vote for?
The burning issue of the day is no longer the personality politics that tends to dominate conversations. The drug war is as good as lost and the foibles of pandemic response have faded into the pit of massive corruption.
What we have to look at now is how a new leader will carry us over the hurdles of climate change and the accompanying ecosystem and economic crashes that are bound to happen unless humanity heeds the call of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The UN has declared this decade one for ecosystem restoration. This is not a call to clean up our house, it is much too late for that. It is now a call to barricade ourselves inside and protect our only home against ourselves. By 2030 the window to act would have closed and humanity will face a planet that is as if it is taking revenge on this so-called intelligent species.
If leaders of the first half of this critical decade do not heed the call of the youth, the plea of nature itself, then humanity is doomed and probably deserves to be. So we should not have tunnel vision about what we are facing but confront the very real threat that is a global scientific consensus and certainty if drastic emissions cuts are not done.
Why are these issues crucial/critical?
As I said, the issue is really climate change and the associated collapse of the ecosystems that support life as we know it. And the issues that we have to think of in picking a leader that can address that issue is integrity, open mindedness, a logical mind, decisiveness and a concern for the most vulnerable.
What are the available channels for community dialogues?
A decade ago, I was asking myself if Facebook was the new Plaza Miranda. This was the plaza in Quiapo where oratories on state of the country and political stands were discussed and critiqued as the public watched and judged. Ten years ago was before Cambridge Analytica and the power of shaping minds for personal political ends.
In a country where education has been rote, where we were never asked to question authority and never taught about the dark history of our political past, our people were fertile grounds for disinformation. History is revised, facts are twisted and uncritical minds are convinced of something that just a decade ago was horrific.
The youth today has precious few options for community dialogue other than online, but with all the information as well as disinformation at their disposal, it is time to be skeptical, to question ... well EVERYTHING. All claims especially those that are self-serving and tend to benefit only a select few. But skepticism is negative, we also need to be curious and thirsty for knowledge.
This is why I think we have to respond with decisiveness to reach herd immunity against COVID-19 so we can go back to teaching our young and establishing community spaces such as museums and public libraries where situations and political decisions can be tested and supported or dissed.
Atty. Ipat Luna
What issues should be discussed as people make their decision whom to vote for?
Two major criteria for choosing candidates in any election are their capacity and motivation to represent the collective interest of the people in the country’s journey to sustainable development, a goal all self-respecting states aspire for. Three aspects comprise the sustainable development arena: social, economic and environmental. The environment (terrestrial and water ecosystems and the atmosphere) mediate everything that living things do, especially humans, to enable the latter to survive and thrive. It should, therefore, be a major consideration in everything that we do - its nature and state and its capacity to sustain life forms on this planet. As Barry Commoner articulated in his first law of ecology in “The Closing Circle”, “ Everything in this world is connected to everything else”.
A candidate should, therefore, be assessed in relation to how he or she considers the environment in his or her country’s overall quest for sustainable socio-economic development. Three aspects define the role of the Environment: 1.) The condition of its state (e.g. environmental media -air, water, and natural resources) to sustainably provide for the basic physical and socioeconomic needs of the people, including their health and overall state of well-being; 2.) Its capacity to protect people from serious physical threats like climate hazards ( sudden onset events like tropical cyclones or slow onset, e.g. sea level rise; drought from an El Nino event) in the form of natural barriers like forests and coastal ecosystems; and 3.) its capacity to absorb and transform residuals or wastes from human activities into more benign or even forms useful to dependent populations.
A candidate could, therefore, be assessed to be either fit or not to serve the interests of the people, by his or her views on the handling of the following environment related issues: a.) climate change and its implications on the country’s long term development and survival of its future generations; 2.) environmental quality issues directly affecting people’s health and well-being, e.g. air/water/land pollution; 3.) state and amount of natural resources to sustain the citizens’ socioeconomic needs, e.g. degrading quality and quantity of the country’s natural resources base.
Why are these issues crucial/critical?
Climate change, while appearing to be a remote, global problem, is closer to home than we think. It, in fact, affects everything that we do and aspire for. Directly, it represents an increased threat to human existence, ironically spawned by human actions themselves through massive amounts of greenhouse gases (GHGs) spewed into the atmosphere during the Industrial Revolution of the 1800s. These increasing climate related threats are in the form of intensifying climate events and their uncertain and increasingly erratic behavior confounding humans. If the global community will not be able to act decisively to mitigate (avoid, reduce) the GHGs as prescribed by global experts on or before the mid-century (2050) to achieve a net zero GHG emissions situation, the uncertainty can translate to a global debacle for humans and all life forms on this planet.
However, as the proverbial cloud with the silver lining, the issue is also an opportunity to effect rapid global transformation in the way we execute things, especially the shift to clean and climate benign technologies which are not only environment friendly but cost effective for development over the long term, providing renewable sources of energy, for example.
Closer to home, the rapidly degrading environmental quality (air/water/land) should be immediately, seriously and sustainably addressed through lasting means like shift to economic transformation approaches, that do not generate or emit significantly lower amounts of wastes that can be recycled safely. The most urgent reason, of course, is the conservation or improvement of the health of our people - the most important resource of this country.
The degrading natural resources base (forests and water ecosystems and their respective biodiversity) should be arrested in its tracks. Aesthetics should not only be the main driver but the significant socioeconomic potential of these resources, as the natural capital for sustainable long-term development across generations.
At the very least, all of these clusters of issues taken all together and addressed, represent the potential survival and thriving of the Filipino race over the long term.
What are the available channels for community dialogues?
Potential for future socioeconomic incomes and development are a potent drawer for communities that spawn spontaneous and lively community discussions. Starting with the most recent development, the Mandanas ruling of the Supreme Court which will infuse an additional average 27% into the receivable(s) of local government units from the national government should be an exciting opportunity for infusion of ideas on how to manage environment related crisis, including climate change impacts.
The People’s Survival Fund (PSF) and other related global Climate Finance access opportunities for communities, could also be good venues for catalyzing community dialogues on community responses and actions that can address continuing and chronic climate and related environment issues.
The national government, through the Climate Change Commission, has instituted a consultative mechanism involving sectors and governance levels, including communities, for a continuing discourse on the country’s shift to a climate benign future, using emerging non GHG emitting technologies and preparing for a more intense climate change situation, through a national anticipatory approach to adaptation to enable our survival and capacity to thrive, spanning generations.
These are but a few channels but the citizens themselves, in whatever arena, should be able to take to task our country’s politicians, in the course of addressing the above issues because they will determine our survival or demise as a people.
Amelia D. Supetran
Environmental Management Expert
Talking Points for the 2022 Philippine Elections was first published in the December 2021 issue of The Mediator, the official magazine of MedNet.