Policy experts say environmental protection is crucial to ASEAN economic integration success

Press release - May 20, 2014
Manila, Philippines, 20 May 2014—The protection of Southeast Asia’s natural and human resource base must be ensured as the region moves towards economic integration in 2015 and beyond. This was the pronouncement made by regional policy experts, civil society groups and members of the academe [1] ahead of the World Economic Forum on East Asia (WEF-EA) in Manila where the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Economic Community will be a key agenda.

ASEAN economies are endowed with abundant natural resources — including forests, fresh water, maritime resources and biodiversity — that need to be protected to ensure long-term economic growth for the region and the rest of the world. The protection of the environment and biodiversity must therefore be reconciled with the growth rate targets of ASEAN to ensure that they will contribute to the long-term benefit of the people and continue to be enjoyed by future generations.

“The world looks at Southeast Asia as a promising model of economic integration and social development, and yet ASEAN has failed to put mechanisms that would ensure environmental sustainability of the region”, said lawyer Zelda Soriano, Political Advisor of Greenpeace Southeast Asia. “Economic progress is meaningless if ASEAN does not issue safeguards to stop the continued degradation of the environment which will have a direct impact on people and productivity.”

The South East Asian haze, overfished seas and extreme weather events are just some of the environmental issues that ASEAN must immediately address.

“While ASEAN countries are scrambling to meet a deadline for economic integration, the reference to the environment in their 2015 community road map and post 2015 vision needs to be strengthened, especially since climate change has now rendered the region much more vulnerable,” said Dr. Tun Lwin, Executive Director of the Myanmar Climate Change Watch.

The groups and experts believe that ASEAN should start by aligning its regional efforts to those prescribed by international environmental treaties and agreements such as the Convention on Biological Diversity, Cartagena Protocol, United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, Kyoto Protocol, Basel Convention on the Control of Trans-boundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal, among others, to which its member-countries are signatories to. To ensure healthy and productive ecosystems across the region, they proposed the following:

  • Enhanced regional cooperation for the protection and conservation of the remaining forests and peat lands of the region—the lungs of Southeast Asia, whose preservation is critical for stabilizing the global climate;
  • Implementation tools, such as a common or trans-boundary mechanism to establish, monitor and undertake environmental impact assessments (EIAs) and strategic impact assessments (SEAs), guided by the Precautionary Principle, Right-to-Know and standards of international environmental laws, to protect the environment from extractive and destructive business operations;
  • Harmonized policies phasing out coal, gas and oil to create a level playing field where renewable energies can compete with other energy sources; 
  • A policy commitment and action plan to establish a network of marine reserves and an end to overfishing within ASEAN;
  • A clean production framework for industrial production;
  • Regional norms to ensure that public and private sector investments in agriculture and energy do not undermine the food security, climate-resilience, livelihood and welfare of peoples and communities in the region;
  • Policies that would shift the funding support from industrial agriculture to sustainable farming practices; and regional programs promoting agro-ecology and sustainable ecosystems;
  • More progressive and united positioning of ASEAN in the UNFCCC negotiations;
  • Information and knowledge sharing and capacity-building on good adaptation and climate resilience-building policies, practices and programs;
  • Regional policies aimed at concretizing a low carbon development path for ASEAN and its Members

“ASEAN economic integration is not just about achieving economic milestones, it should also foster public participation and provide protection for those who are working towards environmental solutions and social safeguards,” said Orlando Mercado, secretary general of the Eastern Regional Organisation for Public Administration (EROPA) and a former ASEAN Ambassador. “A clean, bio-diverse, low-carbon and resilient ASEAN economic community is possible with everyone’s cooperation, vigilance and perseverance.”

Notes to the Editor:

[1] Joining Greenpeace Southeast Asia are Oxfam Grow, Asian Farmers Association (AFA), Asian Partnership for the Development of Human Resources in Rural Asia (ASIADHRRA), Eastern Regional Organisation for Public Administration (EROPA), the Indonesia Legal Resource Center; the Ateneo de Manila University School of Government (ASOG); Prof. Koh Kheng Lian (National University of Singapore); Dr. Alexander Chandra (Trade Knowledge Network, International Institute for Sustainable Development); Dr. Ramon Razal (University of the Philippines Los Baños)  

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For more information:

Atty. Zelda Soriano, ASEAN Political Advisor for Greenpeace Southeast Asia
Email:   | Mobile: +63917-5949424

Therese Salvador, Media Campaigner for Greenpeace Southeast Asia
Email:   | Mobile: +63917-8228734