Environment advocates on Tuesday urged political candidates to push for balanced policies in the management of the country’s natural resources for the sake of the present and future generations.
Carmelo Bayarcal, Philippine Business for Environmental Stewardship convenor, made the call as the country prepares for the national and local elections on May 13.
“As the Philippine electorate prepares to wield its power to bestow a new mandate for the legislature and local governments, we challenge our senatorial and local candidates to state your agenda to address the most urgent environmental challenges of the land,” he said.
He said the stewardship of the environment and economic development should not be in conflict, adding “there is a middle ground approach to harnessing the development of potential of our natural resources that does not compromise the environment.”
The group challenged candidates to disclose their agenda on environmental sustainability.
“For the longest time, environmental concerns have only been cursory and novelty platforms for political candidates and existing regulations are softly enforced. But the issue of environmental protection has now become an urgent discussion worldwide that we cannot afford to be left out,” Bayarcal said.
“The repercussions are real, and we are starting to feel them. The sooner we and the candidates realize that the environmental agenda is fundamentally linked to other ‘conventional’ election issues such as power, water, food security, and even job creation, the sooner we can make development sustainable,” he added.
According to Bayarcal, investors are also looking for sustainable growth of the economy. “Imagine investing so much on infrastructure only to be marred by a lack of power supply, or inviting foreign investors only to drive them away by the rise in cost of doing business as a result of imbalanced supply and demand,” he said.
In a related development, electoral reform groups, along with some information technology experts, on Tuesday urged the Commission on Elections to go back to manual vote counting for the 2019 midterm elections.
Dr. Nelson Celis, Automated Election System Watch spokesperson, and IT expert, called on the Comelec to junk the precinct count optical scan machines of Smartmatic Phils. Inc. “for its lack of credibility” and consider a manual vote count.
Earlier, he said Smartmatic’s PCOS machines failed to comply with the poll automation law, such as the source code.
During the Mata sa Balota forum, Celis cited Germany, the Netherlands and other richest countries in Europe went back to manual count to thwart cyber hacking.
Despite the Automated Election System Law or Republic Act 8436, he believes there is still a high chance to adopt the counting of all election ballots by hand toward clean and honest elections.
He said the automated election system is vulnerable to fraud, adding there is no way the people could tell how the machine is counting and what the count actually is.
Dr. Leo Olarte, Mata sa Balota Movement chairperson, batted for the removal of Smartmatic in the upcoming May 13 polls.
Dr. Mike Aragon of the Mata sa Balota forum said Smartmatic project manager Marlon Garcia, former Comelec chairman Andres Bautista and former Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting chairperson Henrietta de Villa were charged before the Office of the Ombudsman for violation of the Automated Election Law in the 2016 national elections.
Meanwhile, Senator Sherwin Gatchalian has downplayed talks that there would likely be a power outage during the upcoming midterm elections on May 13.
Since May 13 is a holiday, he noted that the demand for electricity will be reduced.
Because of this, the chair of the senate energy committee believes that the possibility of a brownout will almost be nil.
However, he said brownouts should never happen under any circumstances. He said power outage disrupts businesses and slows down the growth of our economy.
Having said that, he said his committee will conduct a senate investigation into sudden power outages that we all experienced prior to Holy Week and the power supply situation for the rest of the summer.
In Metro Manila, NCRPO chief Maj. Gen. Guillermo Eleazar said a total of 15,000 police personnel will be deployed in Metro Manila on the day of the elections to ensure peace and order.
He said the deployment of policemen in polling precincts and canvassing areas is part of the police anti-criminality effort. He said police cannot be complacent so they have to adhere to the templates being followed by Philippine National Police and the Armed Forces of the Philippines.