Evolution of a Green Party in the Philippines

By Bency Ellorin, Partidok Kalikasan ng Pilipinas Philippine Green Party, published in the newsletter Green Party of the United States volume 11, Issue 1

With Green Parties spreading across the planet, it's not surprising Green politics are gaining a foothold in the Philippines. Two nationally organized Green groups already exist, and they've started talks towards building a single, national Green Party.

 

"We are offering Green  politics as a viable alternative to the maddening political climate in the country."
-- Manuel Ravanera

The Philippine Greens, led by respected scientist and activist leader Roberto Verzola, was founded in the early 1990. Today it has members grouped throughout the country. 

The Partido Kalikasan ng Pilipinas (Philip­pine Green Party) was founded in December 2003, headed by veteran environmental broadcaster Vic Milan. It has five local chapters across the country and have already been active in elections. Local chapters in Cagayan de Oro City in Northern Mindanao participated in elections in 2004 and are politically identified with the opposition. 

Led by Verzola and Milan, these two Green parties have formed a preparatory committee, with the objective establishing a single, national Green Party. Hopes for such a party are high.

According to Partidok Secretary General Roy Cabonegro, "by building a strong mass base in the communities, and with the impending unification between the two Green groups in the country, it is possible that as early as 2010, we can have a strong national Green Party with a Green Party member sitting in the Philippine Lower House of Congress or House of Representatives in the next Congress."

For the near term, Cabonegro said, the Partido Kalikasan is setting its sights on supporting its members in participating in the Barangay election set for this October and at the same time supporting the bid of the Cagayan de Oro City Chapter in the May local elections. 

The Barangay (village) is the lowest political unit in the Philippines. Cur­rent­ly, the Philippine Congress is composed of two Houses, the Senate which forms the Upper House and the House of Repre­sent­atives or the Lower House. Mem­bers of the Lower House are chosen per congressional district usually comprised of a political territory with at least 250,000 voters, while members of the Senate are chosen in a national election. Election for local officials and members of Congress are held every three years while presidential election is held every six years.

Environmental lawyer Manuel Ravanera, chairperson of the Cagayan de Oro, North­ern Mindanao Chapter said, "we are offering Green politics as a viable alternative to the maddening political climate in the country." 

He added that their platform is based on principles of sustainable development, transparent and accountable governance and respect for the rule of law. "It is very hard to participate in the Philippine election where guns, goons and gold are still prevalent. But out of our sincere offer to provide an alternative to the people, we have to take the risk of entering electoral politics without dirtying our hands," said Ravanera.

In 2004, Ravanera ran for a seat in the Congress as Representative of Cagayan de Oro. While not elected, the results were encouraging. With minimal resources, Greens ran a full campaign in a city with about a million people and about 230,000 voters. In the process, they established themselves as the third force in local politics, providing a genuine alternative to the administration and opposition parties that are all composed of traditional politicians or 'trapos' - which in the local vernacular means 'politicians who belong to the elite and are into patronage and transactional politics.' 

In the Philippines both coal plants and extensive mining threaten biodiversity and destroy pristine lands. Toxic spills and mining waste can destroy local ecosystems, harm human health and undermine peoples' livelihoods. Philip­pine Greens have long been active on this issue.

On the international level, both Philip­pine Greens groups are part of the Asia Pacific Green Network and the Asia Pacific Young Green Network.

Bency Ellorin is the Secretary General of the Cagayan de Oro, Northern Mindanao Chapter. An active environmental campaigner and freelance writer, he is now the Co-Chairperson for People's Organization of the Philippine Civil Society Council for Sustainable Development and Vice Chairperson of the newly established Kalikasan Institute.

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