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Why did PNoy change his mind on Acosta?



“No forests, no watershed; no watershed, no water; no water, no rice; no rice, no economy.” Neric Acosta’s summary of danger in the Philippine environment drew the crowds on the campaign trail with Noynoy Aquino.

Neric Acosta

They sensed the urgency with which this three-term congressman of Bukidnon’s lone district had authored interconnected laws to reverse the danger – the Clean Air Act of 1999, the Solid Waste Management Act of 2001, the Clean Water Act of 2004, and laws protecting biodiversity, caves, coastal resources, protected areas, and plant variety protection.

Acosta lost his Senate bid despite six million votes, leaving Aquino’s words to him in the campaign homestretch: “Kahit anong mangyari, makakatulong ka sa environment.” Many agreed that there could be no better DENR secretary than Neric Acosta on Aquino’s Daang Matuwid.

Media was already referring to him as the DENR secretary when the one-year waiting period for losing candidates elapsed in mid-May. But instead of his anticipated appointment came a jolt: Aquino held off on appointing Acosta in the face of a well-funded campaign against him. Led off by a privilege speech by Miguel Zubiri of the questionable Senate victory in 2007, it went on to an open letter to the President in full-page ads in major broadsheets, suggesting an ongoing Sandiganbayan case against Acosta and his family as an impediment to his appointment. Acosta replied swiftly, “They must be afraid of the clean-up I

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intend to do.”

Columnist Winnie Monsod chimed in: “Who would think that keeping Acosta out of the DENR was important enough to shell out some P180,000 for an ad? A partial list: his political enemies—i.e. the Zubiris of Bukidnon and their allies, who want to deny Acosta any opportunity to shine. There are those who want to keep the status quo—the incumbent is affiliated with the Iglesia ni Cristo whose power to capture and retain plum appointments is legendary.

“And there are those who look at the DENR as a potential cash cow (permits, licenses, certifications, etc.) or think they can get what they want from the present dispensation, whose activities may be drastically impaired with Acosta there because he is anything but corrupt…Well, it seems that have been successful. And the country has lost. Again.”

That “incumbent” Monsod refers to is Ramon Paje. “Anything but corrupt” does not seem to hang as well on him. Says an ex-DENR official who requested anonymity: “As Secretary Lito Atienza’s right hand, Paje is known to have made P5M as part of the company payroll in exchange for an ECC for a golf course. There, too, was an applicant for a mining permit who complained to the Mines and Geosciences Bureau that Paje asked him for P25 M. But Paje is both sipsip and smart. He was careful not to leave a paper trail.”

Such allegations echo in blogs and news reports. Here’s an echo of Paje’s way with Environmental Compliance Certificates and Timber Licensing Agreements.

Another report assesses Paje’s DENR Administrative Order No. 2011-01, “Strengthening the Manila Bay Coordinating Office” last January. Says the national chair of the fisherfolk NGO Pamalakaya, Fernando Hicap: “Secretary Ramon Paje can deny this to high heaven. But we are totally convinced that this fresh escapade of the DENR for Manila Bay clean-up has something to do with the P100 billion climate change and clean-up fund forwarded by the Arroyo administration to the financial oligarchs of World Bank in 2008.”

Why PNoy chose a man with a shadowy record over a proven ally in Daang Matuwid remains a question, but here’s Neric Acosta to shed some light on the rest of the picture:

Q. What did the President tell you about his decision not to appoint you DENR secretary?

A. “You will be so distracted by your enemies that it will be difficult to run the bureaucracy. Maraming buwaya.”

Q. Could other less friendly considerations be behind the President’s decision? Looks like the loggers and miners are getting their way.

A.Let’s put it this way. The old prism for looking at the environment looks at natural resources merely as goods to be utilized and exploited. The new prism sees ecology as land, soil, water and air in the service of life.

What I want to know is whether government is moving away from what should be seen as the primary wealth of the country – ecological resources valued for themselves, not as as mere commodities.

Q. How do you read PNoy’s understanding of the planetary environmental crisis?

A. I think it’s still on the conceptual plane. He has yet to fully internalize it, the real urgency of it.

Q. What is your own understanding of the extent of this crisis in our country?

We have about 3% of our original forest cover left. These last wild areas are the heart and lungs of the country with nearly all of our remaining endemic species, nearly all of which are teetering on the edge of extinction. As I said in the campaign: No forest, no watershed; no watershed, no water; no water, no rice, no economy.

Q. What is the most urgent task facing government in this life-and-death situation?

We have to do aerial mapping to identify all those valuable remaining forested areas presently outside the protected area system that will fall under immediate protection through legislation and involvement in a national initiative. Then we need to identify what areas of agricultural land we have and what land could, and should be converted into food production.

Through this mapping process we need to develop a National Food Security Initiative whereby agricultural land will be protected by law from conversion to residential or other development.

Q. Aren’t there existing mapping projects?

A. Yes, but it’s all partial. There’s no inter-agency collaboration. Without that, mapping doesn’t cut across the whole picture. How can we monitor what we do not map? How can we manage what do not measure?

Q. You’re calling for an integration of government perspectives in the 11th hour. How do you see PNoy’s offer to appoint you Presidential Adviser on the Environment instead?

A. There are two possible tracks for such a position. First, enforcement of all existing LAWS on land, air, water and solid waste management from the Office of the President, superseding all agencies.

Second, an oversight function on inter-agency policies rooted in the values of conservation. This involves national consciousness-raising.

Q.How do you see that rippling in the lives of ordinary Pinoys?

A. We can begin with this space and vehicle to help change a national consciousness — and move from there to increase our spheres of inspiration and action. – Newsbreak


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  1. Rhea A. says:

    Pinoy Appointed Atty. Nilo Divina

    Here’s some info on this guy:

    In 2006 The Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) has filed a criminal complaint against five former officers of Equitable PCI Bank (EPCIB) for alleged violations of the securities law.

    Accused were Roberto Romulo, Antonio Go, Anthony Conway and Peter Go Pailan, members of the EPCIB board of directors, and board secretary Nilo T. Divina.

    The complaint was filed on June 16 by Winston F. Garcia, GSIS president and general manager, with the Department of Justice.

    Preliminary hearing of the case was set for June 22 by the DOJ after subpoenas were sent to the respondents.

    In his complaint, Garcia said that Romulo was elected as an independent director of EPCIB for the past two years even though he was not qualified.

    Despite knowledge that Romulo was not qualified, Go, Conway and Go Pailan did not disqualify Romulo from running for the EPCIB board.

    Garcia said under the Securities Regulation Code, an independent director must not be an officer or employee of the corporation where they will serve. The independent director must not have been a director, officer or employee of any affiliate, subsidiary or related company.

    According to Garcia, Romulo is a member of the board of directors of Equicom Systems Management, Inc., a company which is a joint venture of the Equitable Group and Telus International as claimed in its website.

    Romulo is also chairman of the board of directors of Equitable Card Network, Inc., a subsidiary of EPCIB, Garcia added.

    The GSIS official said that the actions of the respondents violated Article 318 of the Revised Penal Code, which is punishable by imprisonment from one month to six months.

    If convicted, they shall also be fined for not more than twice the amount of the damage caused.

    According to Garcia the “deceits” of the respondents caused damage and prejudice to the more than 200 stockholders of EPCIB, including the GSIS and the Social Security System which holds substantial shares in the bank

  2. Jesus Mary Hao says:

    Mane Thecel Phares Neric Acosta. – President Noynoy Aquino.

  3. Monching says:

    On Secretary Paje’s “integrity” – That’s why Secretary Paje has done nothing on one of the ongoing environmental disasters happening in the Philippines – the oil spill in Barangay Bangkal, Makati by FPIC, Shell and Petron!

  4. steve salonga says:

    There is no argument that the DENR portfolio is one of the most urgent and crucial assignment of the PNoy administration. Neric is the man, no ifs or buts. But where is the commitment on the part of the government? Is there to be a newly created environment czar? Will that czar be simply and adviser? Have the big Filipino mining and logging interests captured our government again? His immediate appointment would instantly answer all these questions with a big NO! Continue silence and non-appointment signifies a heavily qualified YES.

  5. Mon Magbanau says:

    The fate of the future Filipinos should not be compromised by Pnoy to favor the vested interest groups supporting Paje. Mr Acosta is correct in his equation and time is of the essence. Our country does not have the luxury of time as well as
    error in decision making. Pnoy should be more discerning as various vested interest groups in mining, resorts development, logging, squatters of National Parks and block voting sects with interests in all mentioned are making fools and playing games around him taking advantage of his being too kind, too naive or too submissive to their desires. Pnoy should pity the future generations of Filipinos. He should act now.

  6. monmagbanua says:

    Regarding the horse trading behid Paje’s position, maybe Noynoy will wake up if the people will contribute to give him a sort of a
    toy like his Porsche Boxter (pre-owned by a member of a vested interest group), say, maybe a pre-owned Lamborghini Diablo model 2010 just so he could really remember his promise to the people (“kayo ang boss ko kaya regaluhan nyo ako”). He will surely remember that the Filipino people is really his Big Boss. Or, maybe a late model pre-owned Ferrari will do so he and his KKK gang will have something to play with. Wake up Noynoy, So much for partying and boozing with your KKK. Do your job, please.

  7. Rey Soriano says:

    but who holds the scale used to measure and found acosta wanting? the zubiris? big mining interests? the denr mafia? the successful propaganda of the contra-acosta clique has effectively quashed hope for a greener philippines in the foreseeable future. it may not and does not lie on one man alone, but the pattern of seeing how powerful lobbies trump governance reforms for the environment is really disconcerting.

  8. Ed O. Mangaoang says:

    There is an urgent need to replace the current corrupt leadership and implementers of richly funded government programs on forests and environment from the imperial DENR Manila Office to CENROs in communities all over the country. History wise, most if not all of the big programs and projects of the government thru DENR were bagged down by pre-planned and intentional money-making business of DENR officials and staff. We badly need a man in the name of Neric Acosta whose track record and conscience reveal the intent of cleaning-up DENR of human leeches and crocodiles, and eventually establish a sanitized environment and natural office that will uphold clean and committed implementation of government programs and projects, that we “the common masa” have been dreaming of a long time ago. Hoping Pnoy will reconsider his previous decision.

  9. I have a friend in DENR who was placed in a floating status cause of disagreement with then Usec Paje re mining. My friend questioned the mining company for exporting ore when their permit was still just exploration and not yet mining. Usec Paje wanted my friend to give the permit to export but my friend refused. Thus, when Paje became Acting Secretary and eventually DENR Secretary, my friend was placed in a floating status..

  10. Pio, if your friend wants to expose Paje, now is the time. His confirmation at the CA was just deferred and my friend is one of the four oppositors to his confirmation. He can come forward or if this is not possible, he can forward any of his evidence to him. His evidence should come in very handy in the next confirmation hearing at the Senate.

  11. They can’t expose Paje because he has too many people with vested interests of keeping him there protecting him.

    I can’t say more without being charged with libel or worse, but a bit of checking and cross-checking of who owns what, and some of the things that happened in the DENR between December 2009 – March 2010 will show you some rather interesting things.

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