The Rio+20 conference starts today in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil but the Philippine government is apparently unprepared for the upcoming negotiations, research group IBON said.
Prior to the Rio conference, a memo by President Aquino was issued last year to review the implementation of the Agenda 21 set by the first Rio Earth Summit in 1992. The 20-year assessment paper has not been released as of this writing, despite the urgency of the review. The Rio+20 Earth Summit is a gathering of world leaders in Rio de Janeiro, where the first Earth Summit took place in 1992. The Rio+20, or the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD), will also gather participants from governments, the private sector, nongovernment organizations, media and others to discuss and shape the official agenda for reducing poverty, advancing social equity and ensuring environmental protection in the decades to come.
The Rio+20 is expected to produce a new action plan for countries to adopt, revising the first Rio’s Agenda 21. Agenda 21 is the action plan produced by the Earth Summit in eradicating poverty and managing the environment through the sustainable development approach. To implement the Agenda 21, the Philippine Council for Sustainable Development (PCSD) was created in 1992. The Philippine Agenda 21 (PA21) was formulated and 'enabling mechanisms' were put in place only in 1996.
The government’s unpreparedness does not only manifest in the delay in coming out with an assessment paper, but also in duly reviewing the development strategy that the government used in achieving sustainable development. This was clear in the input document submitted by the PCSD to the Rio+20, which outlined the Philippine position for the conference.
The country’s input was framed in the ‘green economy’, supposedly a new approach to attaining sustainable development but which critics call a worse version of neoliberal globalization. Among others, the green economy puts a price on natural resources and further commodifies nature and the ecosystems.
Originally, the PA21’s action agenda elaborated the mix of strategies that would simply integrate the sustainable development parameters within globalization and the market economy. In 2001, upon the formulation of the Enhanced PA21, the Philippine government recognized that the rise of globalization and the creation of an external environment of finance, markets, and technology did not seem conducive to sustainable development. In short, according to IBON, the realization of Agenda 21 was not happening.
Indeed, 20 years after the first Rio conference, efforts in achieving sustainable development in the country were failing. Exports growth has remained erratic and foreign investments are still lackluster – both are still slowing as of 2012. Unemployment has worsened, real wages are basically flat, and poverty has worsened. There is an unprecedented social crisis – in education, health and quality of life. The country is also having its worst ecological crisis. Deforestation is so severe such that only around 7-26% of the land area remains with forests. Its coasts are degraded, with 70% of coral reefs at high or very high risks and 76% of mangroves are lost. The country is 4th in Asia with most number of threatened species (221 fauna and 526 flora). The country has a water crisis where 67% of river systems are unsafe and 58% of groundwater is contaminated. Moreover, a liberalized mining sector has caused irreversible damages to shores, rivers, forests and biodiversity. The Philippines topped the list of countries in the world in terms of the occurrence of natural disasters in 2011, with a total of 33, followed by China, 21 and by the US, 19. It also ranks 3rd in the list of countries most vulnerable to climate change, as of October 2011, next to Vanuatu and Tonga.
According to IBON, the green economy is not a departure from the framework of neoliberal globalization, which caused the economic and environmental crisis that the world is facing today. It urges the Philippine government to study more comprehensively the impact of its development strategies in the last twenty years, so that it could contribute more effectively in formulating a next action plan that is beyond the failed globalization framework. (end)