Obstacles to the green economy

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Wednesday, April 30, 2014


BUILDING the green economy in Negros Occidental still faces tough challenges. The other week, San Carlos Bioenergy Inc. (SCBI) had to stop operations after admitting that its waste ethanol has polluted the communities in San Cárlos City and Calatrava.

The malodorous smell emanates from the plant’s waste water lagoon that has untreated water with high acidity.

Now this, Victorias Milling Company distillery that also emits unpleasant smell especially when it rains, affecting residents of Barangay Purisima, Manapla.

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Third District Board Member Patrick Lacson, environment committee chair of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan, enjoined residents to file a formal complaint so that the province can properly address the problem.
VMC is a repeat offender. In 2007, then DENR Secretary Ángelo Reyes ordered the company to stop operations until it corrects alleged environmental violations.

In his cease-and-desist-order, Reyes instructed VMC to pay the cost of rehabilitating the Malihao River in Victorias City that would include dredging, flushing of the accumulated wastes and aeration of the river system.

Victoria’s Canetown Subdivision residents complained of fly ash fallout allegedly coming from the smoke stacks of the company's mills.

Reyes had noted that the VMC discharges caused the pungent odor in the Malihao River and significantly contributed to the pollution load of the river system.

The UN Conference on Trade and Development noted that in the past, industrialized nations became rich by using the world’s natural resources in a profligate manner, with little regard for the environment.

Under the polluter pays principle, the State is compelling these companies to pay the price of having to clean-up the damage they have caused by polluting the space in which they live.

Except for a few, Negros Occidental is not rich to begin with. The province cannot afford this kind where a few get rich at the expense of our fragile environment and the welfare of other communities. It cannot afford to develop the local economy by sacrificing the environment and social benefits of other Negrenses.

In the 2012 Rio+20 outcome document “The Future We Want,” the United Nations linked the development of a green economy with the sustainable development goals of reducing poverty, and ensuring water, food, energy, environmental sustainability, climate change, and natural disasters.
The United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) defines the green economy as “one that results in improved human well-being and social equity, while significantly reducing environmental risks and ecological scarcities.”

Green economies are not based on the demand for sacrifice, but on the idea of qualitative growth, where low-carbon and environmentally friendly technologies, among other things, play a key role.

As Board Member Lacson said, “We welcome such industries for so long as these are not detrimental to the health of residents in their area of operation as well as to the environment. We will attend to this complaint.”

Amen to that.

***

(bqsanc@yahoo.com)

Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on April 30, 2014.

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