MANILA. The Philippines Chapter of the International League of Peoples’ Struggle (ILPS-Phils) expressed alarm of government inaction as forest and bush fires worsen air quality across northern Indonesia, neighboring Singapore, parts of Malaysia and reached Mindanao in the Philippines.

“Greater accountability of the Aquino government and the ASEAN should be made,” the ILPS-Phils said.

It noted that the Philippine government is a signatory to the 2002 ASEAN Agreement on Trans-boundary Haze Pollution, which requires the parties involved to implement measures to prevent, monitor, and mitigate this kind of pollution.

The haze was due to the clearing of land for expansion of plantations. Burning is reportedly the cheapest means for companies to immediately revive their oil palm plantations.

According to NASA’s Active Fire Data on the Global Forest Watch Fires platform, half of the fire alerts in Indonesia’s Riau Province recently occurred in protected zones or in areas where new development is prohibited under the country’s national forest moratorium.

“Instead of acting on a lasting solution to the problem, the Aquino government is expanding oil palm plantations in the Philippines from the current 60,000 hectares with additional 950,000 hectares to the year 2030,”

The ILPS is preparing for its 5th International Assembly this November 14-16 to challenge governments and word leaders on various issues including the environment. The ILPS-Phils welcomed the formation of REAP Mindanao Network as it holds a national conference on Mindanao plantations.

The network is led by ILPS-Phils member organizations: UMA (Ugnayan ng Manggagawa sa Agrikultura or Farm Workers Association); KMP (Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas or Peasant Movement of the Phils.); Center for Trade Union and Human Rights (CTUHR); and the national office and Northern Mindanao chapter of the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines (RMP).

The ILPS-Phils also scored the government’s Inter-Agency Committee on Environmental Health (IACEH). It was last convened on November 2011 following the ruptured petroleum pipeline in Barangay Bangkal in Makati City.

“Pres. Aquino was fast to act when the country’s financial district and posh villages were polluted. He held his breath when the people of Mindanao are being killed by state forces and transnational corporations,” the ILPS-Phils said.