Rights of Nature Campaign Launch to Be Held at the Threatened Arroceros Forest Park

QUEZON CITY – The launching of the ‘Rights of Nature (RoN) Campaign’ at Arroceros Forest Park in Manila is made more significant with the plan of the Manila City government to destroy the park and turn it to a commercial space and school gymnasium.

“We wanted Arroceros Park as the venue of the campaign launch because it specifically reflects the flawed consciousness of many of us, including the government, on how we appreciate and view nature. We tend to want every open space and vacant land to be paved and transformed into profit and money-making structures or sites without much regard for the other creation living in that ecosystem,” Yolanda Esguerra, National Coordinator of Philippine Misereor Partnership, Inc. (PMPI) said.

“More than supporting the campaign against Arroceros Park’s impending destruction, the RoN Campaign would like to also encourage people to go back to natural parks and re-establish our relationship and connectedness to nature. We would like to particularly see the promotion of green spaces in cities instead of building malls and parking lots,” Esguerra added.

The RoN Campaign is an initiative to develop a movement that would push for an economic, political and socio-cultural framework that would recover our lost reverence, respect and connectedness to nature. More specifically, it will strive to push for a law that would give legal rights to nature just as humans enjoy.

Concretizing the Communities’ Clamour to Protect the Environment

The RoN campaign took off during the nationwide caravan called ‘Salakyag para sa Sangnilikha 2018 last May 28 to June 5, spearheaded by PMPI and NASSA/Caritas Philippines. It was an environmental caravan that started from Zamboanga City and culminated at the Mendiola Peace Arch in Manila City aimed to raise awareness on local and national environmental issues and to push for ‘green bills’ in the Congress, like the Alternative Minerals Management Bill (AMMB), National Land Use Act (NLUA), and the Forests Resources Bill (FRB), etc.

As our nation gears up for development based on the world’s economic and legal frameworks following the utilitarian perspective and anthropocentrism beliefs, nature is bound for further degradation and inevitable catastrophes. The dangers posed by climate change, Philippines being the 3rd most vulnerable country, should highlight the urgency of pushing this framework.

Environmental laws and advocates in the Philippines have not reneged on their duties to protect the environment, yet all good environmental laws have not sufficiently addressed the protection of nature aside from lack of efficient implementation. Hence, the increasing resistance of people from various communities. In the 2017 Global Witness report, the Philippines ranked second high risk country for environmental defenders in Asia. 48 out of the 207 environmental defenders killed all over the world happened in the Philippines, second to Brazil with 57 murdered.

NASSA/Caritas Philippines believes that pushing for the Rights of Nature is another way to defend our environment from the capitalists’ view of nature.

Fr. Edu Gariguez, Executive Secretary of NASSA/Caritas Philippines said that the Pope in his encyclical Laudato si’ heavily criticized corporate greed as one major causes of environmental destruction. “The idea of unlimited growth, which proves so attractive to economists, financiers and experts in technology…is based on a lie that there is infinite supply of the earth’s good and this leads to the planet being squeezed beyond its limit.”

“We need to address this capitalist and corporate greed. Hurdles along the way is expected, given the fact that the Philippine environmental situation is continuously deteriorating as the extractive industries, considered as drivers of development, remain unchecked and unregulated. Moreover, government development direction is not even people-centric but very much business-centric.” Fr. Gariguez said.

RoN Growing Movement Internationally

International Policy lobbyists believe that “Rights of Nature” is a concept, at the heart of which lies key in addressing our dysfunctional economic system and the legal, social and political and modern cultural frameworks that are destroying people and planet.” In hindsight it is the recognition and honoring that the environment has rights just as human beings.

When the Universal Declaration of Rights of Mother Earth was drafted during the Rights of Mother Earth Conference in Bolivia in 2010, it became the catalyst for establishing the Rights of Nature Tribunal platforms around the world that hear environmental and social justice cases within the context of RoN jurisprudence. The initiative made traction when Ecuador enshrined it in their Constitution and Bolivia passed a bill on the Rights of Nature.

The RoN campaign being led by PMPI and NASSA/Caritas Philippines will strive to link the movement in the Philippines to the growing international movement, and the September 29 launch will mark this important event.

Arts, music, workshops and cultural activities will be showcased during the launching promoting Rights of Nature, environmental activism.

This campaign is also being supported by the Global Catholic Climate Movement (GCCM) – Pilipinas, Association of Major Religious Superiors in the Philippines (AMRSP), Conservation International (CI), Franciscan Solidarity Movement on Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation (FSMPIC), Interface Development Interventions (IDIS), Silsilah Dialogue Movement, LimiTado, and Tree:ty.