The National Committee on Biosafety of the Philippines (NCBP) is set to have a “final public consultation” today, February 9, 2016 on the draft circular on GMO release.
This is barely two months since the Supreme Court decided that “any application for contained use, field testing, propagation and commercialization, and importation of genetically modified organisms is TEMPORARILY ENJOINED until a new administrative order is promulgated in accordance with law.”
The draft circular is dated 31 January 2016. The NCBP is giving the public a mere one week to comment on this circular which is insufficient time for public consultation. One week is not enough to review the 36-page draft circular that is composed of 13,852 words. There should be nothing “final” after one week of “consultations” especially since the release of GMOs to the Philippine environment, as held by the Supreme Court, is of significant public interest.
The time that NCBP set is already a sign that it will not follow Philippine laws on public participation in coming up with a law or regulation on GMO release in the Philippines. That they do not provide time for public participation already shows GROSS INCOMPETENCE of the NCBP and its member agencies in safeguarding the people’s right to health and the environment.
Furthermore, members of the NCBP should be HELD RESPONSIBLE for unconscionably railroading the process of arriving at a Joint Circular for the regulation and release of GMOs to the Philippine environment, and for coming up with a Joint Circular that is in UTTER DISREGARD OF THE SUPREME COURT DECISION AS WELL AS OF PHILIPPINE ENVIRONMENTAL AND HEALTH LAWS.
The Joint Circular is a mere rehash of DAO 8 which the Supreme Court has already declared as ‘NULL AND VOID” as per its decision in G.R. Nos. 209271, 209276, 209301, and 209430 and dated 8 December 2015. The joint circular presents no serious, meaningful, and sincere attempt to protect the constitutionally enshrined right of the people to health, and to a healthy and safe environment.
For railroading public consultation processes, the NCBP and its partner or member agencies should be stripped of its powers to arrive at any rule or regulation relating to GMOs. Inasmuch as the release of GMOs to the environment is of crucial public interest to the Filipino people, as held by the Supreme Court, any law, rule or regulation regarding GMOs and its release to the environment following the National Biosafety Framework (NBF) standards, should be passed by the legislative branch of government to enable genuine and full participation of the Filipino people.
Considering that the Supreme Court found the efforts of Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI), Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) and the NCBP wanting in protecting the people’s right to health and the environment, ALL GMOS already released by these government offices MUST BE RECALLED AND THEIR FURTHER RELEASE TO THE PHILIPPINE ENVIRONMENT STOPPED. BPI and NCBP should start doing their jobs by making independent assessments on the impacts of these GMOs on people’s health and to the Philippine environment instead of making hasty and illegal draft circulars and allowing the GMOs already in the Philippine environment to proliferate.
The Supreme Court directed government agencies to come up with a joint circular that will enshrine the principles and policies of the 1987 Constitution and the National Biosafety Framework of the Philippines, at the very least. The draft joint circular that will have a “final” public consultation on 9 February 2016 is a meaningless attempt at compliance because:
- The circular does not provide paramount importance to the constitutionally enshrined right of the Filipino people to health, and a safe environment. It does not contain any specific provision on the precautionary approach, and that in any biosafety decision, the people’s right to health and to the environment shall be of paramount and overarching importance and/or consideration.
- Its provisions on public consultation are grossly inadequate, limited only to “posting and information dissemination” and “invitation for comments”. It must be minded that the Supreme Court already ruled that, “scientific research alone will not resolve all the problems, but participation of different stakeholders from scientists to industry, NGOs, farmers and the public will provide a needed variety of perspective foci, and knowledge”. There are grossly inadequate procedures in the joint circular that will allow such public participation to take place.
- The Joint Circular does not have provisions on funding relating to the conduct of independent environmental and socio-economic and cultural impact assessments. The EMB has admitted during the Bt eggplant trials that DENR-EMB does not have competence, capacity and funds to conduct assessments on GMOs.
- There is inadequate provision standards and processes on protecting the environment, such as but not limited to, requiring long-term studies to study effects of release to the environment.
- There is no provision on determining socio-economic and cultural assessment/effects of GMO release which is required by the NBF.
- There is no provision on assessing and/or ensuring the competence and independence of “experts” that will make the crucial decision of releasing GMOs to the environment.
- There is no provision on control mechanisms, such as capacity to detect GMOs in environment and its harmful effects.
- There is no provisions on liability and redress. No provisions on public accountability of government officials who allow the release of GMOs to the environment