HEHERSON TURINGAN ALVAREZ
Climate Change Commission
HEHERSON T. ALVAREZ has devoted a greater part of his life to large and noble causes – standing up against oppression and tyranny, pursuing modernization and national development program, advancing social justice, and promoting and protecting the environment.
I. FREEDOM FIGHTER
Alvarez, one of the youngest delegates, was one of the Ten Most Outstanding Delegates to the 1972 Constitutional Convention (as described in the book of President Diosdado Macapagal on the Constitutional Convention of 1972, which he presided).
Faced by alternatives of blandishment and threat from Malacanang, Alvarez did not shirk his duty during the greatest postwar crisis of the Philippine Republic. Openly opposing President Marcos’ political manipulation of the Convention, he was one of 11 delegates who refused to sign the Marcos-dictated Constitution.
Eluding arrest and a shoot-to-kill order against him and another delegate Bonifacio Gillego, Alvarez went underground. In 1973, he escaped to the United States, determined to undermine American support for the martial law regime.
As secretary general of the Movement for a Free Philippines, Alvarez – along with other prominent Filipino leaders such as Raul Manglapus, Raul Daza and Charlie Avila –organized to cut U.S. assistance and political support to the Marcos regime. Alvarez campaigned for understanding and support for Philippine democracy. In testimonies in the US Congress, Alvarez pointed out that Marcos was not the “solution” but the problem of Philippine democracy.
Following the brutal execution of Senator Benigno Aquino in 1983, Alvarez consolidated overseas democratic opposition into the Ninoy Aquino Movement. NAM held aloft Ninoy’s martyrdom and made it the democratic rallying point. The Wall Street Journal and the Christian Science Monitor called NAM as the “biggest and best-organized opposition movement in the United States.”
Alvarez directed and organized a broad and skillful campaign against the Marcos dictatorship to undercut US support. He organized more than one hundred chapters of the movement to rally support focusing on members of the US Congress and the offices of Senators. He led in the research and exposes on the incredible hidden wealth of the Marcoses invested in US properties. The evidence that Alvarez’s group uncovered became the basis for a series of exposes by the San Jose Mercury News; for the series the paper won a Pulitzer Prize.
With the revelations of the Marcoses’ absconded wealth in the U.S. Alvarez campaigned to expose widespread corruption and violent repression of human rights by the Marcos regime. For his unwavering endeavors and principled leadership of the Ninoy Aquino Movement (NAM), Alvarez won widespread recognition. Far more important, he gained the respect and support of powerful voices in American politics and media who denounced and finally eroded US government assistance to the Marcos regime.
In 1986, as the EDSA uprising forced Marcos to flee, US Senator Ted Kennedy voiced the popular mood about Alvarez.
Kennedy personally acknowledged that Alvarez’s “tireless dedication to democracy in the Philippines made a real difference.”
II. CONSCIENTIOUS LEGISLATOR
Alvarez’s broad and profound efforts as a legislator have left an indelible impact in the areas of agrarian reform, social legislation, environmental protection and conservation, economic development, and protection of the rights of indigenous tribes and overseas Filipinos.
As a Senator for 12 years (two inextendible terms), he was consistently acknowledged as a “Most Outstanding Senator” by the various multi-media and civic organizations for landmark laws that had far-reaching consequences on the nation and the lives of the Filipino people.
During his first term in the Senate, in 1987, he chose to chair the Senate Committee on Environment, a very minor committee with a minimal budget of P50,000.00 He chaired that committee for ten (10) years, transforming the environment issue into a major national concern. As early as 1988 he was already warning of the dangers of global warming and climate change, which were then considered non-issues in both national and global context.
In the Senate, Alvarez authored the leading laws and resolutions that continue to have a positive and far-reaching impact on the country’s environment. These include the Clean Air Act, National Integrated Protected Areas System (NIPAS - the umbrella law that protects watersheds and forests), Solid Waste Management Act, Northern Sierra Madre Protected Area Act, and Strategic Environmental Plan for Palawan (SEP) and the Resolution Declaring April 22 of each year as Earth Day in the Philippines.
In 1995, Alvarez spearheaded the First Asia-Pacific Leaders Conference on Climate Change. It was held at Manila Hotel in February of that year with three Prime Ministers, environment Ministers, and two specialists of the United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP), and the chair of the Science and Technology of The People’s Republic of China.
This Conference on Climate Change took place 11 years before Al Gore’s 2006 documentary film on global warming, “An Inconvenient Truth.” The conference produced the Manila Declaration, expressing the body’s official position on global warming. The Manila Declaration was formally presented to the Conference of Parties I (COP-1) in Berlin, Germany in March 1995 by Alvarez as head of the Philippine delegation.
For these pioneering policy leadership, he was chosen by the UP Institute for Strategic Development Studies as the “Most Outstanding Senate Lawmaker in Environmental Protection.”
In 1993, when the country was reeling from a power crisis, he took the opportunity to create a Department of Energy. He authored RA 7638 establishing the department and liberalizing the energy sector. The new law enabled the new Ramos administration to solve the severe brownouts that crippled the national economy, and almost brought the economy on a take-off.
While chair of the Senate’s Blue Ribbon Committee, he uncovered the single largest land scam during the Cory Aquino administration. This involved the multi-million peso over-pricing, using land reform funds, in the purchase of the Garchitorena Estate in the Bicol region. The scam led to the resignation of then Agrarian Reform Secretary and enabled the Land Reform Program to be on track.
As Congressman of Isabela, Alvarez performed one of the most momentous and courageous political acts in the post-Marcos era. He led the impeachment of President Joseph Estrada in the House of Representatives that triggered the EDSA People Power II revolt. For this, he was awarded the EDSA People Power Freedom Award by the People Power Commission.
III. OUTSTANDING CABINET MEMBER
In more than four decades as a public servant, Alvarez fulfilled – and continues to fulfill -- his duties and responsibilities with honor, dignity, high-mindedness and an overwhelming tenacity for the people’s welfare and future.
As Minister of the Department of Agrarian Reform under the Cory Aquino government, he established the “Barefoot Lawyers” that harnessed well-trained undergraduates to assist tenant farmers with basic legal problems. Significantly, he accomplished:
• In less than a year, he was able to distribute 81,396 Emancipation Patents or Land Transfer Titles to farmer beneficiaries all over the country.
• To provide effective perspective, representation and additional protection for the beneficiaries, he caused the direct representation of small farmers in the Board of Directors of the Landbank of the Philippines with the appointment of Juan Sangreo, a model farmer, as member of the Board. Landbank began to shift from commercial to agricultural finance.
As Secretary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Alvarez thwarted big business encroachments into the ancestral domains of indigenous peoples in Mindanao. Clamping down on illegal mining to protect the environment, he prevented land-grabbers and logging companies from robbing the indigenous peoples of their ancestral lands.
• He pursued critical reforms and conducted a vigorous campaign against illegal logging. During his tenure, the DENR filed 323 cases in court against illegal loggers and forestry law violators. He issued 66 Cease and Desist Orders for violations of environmental laws and withdrew permits of projects like the Pulupandan Coal Power Plant and the $2.5 billion Aglubang mining concession for violations involving environmental compliance.
• A major battle was against powerful, entrenched business interests involving PICOP Resources, one of the country’s largest logging firms. PICOP filed with DENR an application to convert its Timber License Agreement (TLA) into an Integrated Forest Management Agreement (IFMA). However, Alvarez first required PICOP to settle its outstanding income and excise tax obligations prior to renewing its corporate life and securing a new logging permit. PICOP sued Alvarez, winning on October 2, 2002 a P10 million judgment against the secretary in a Quezon City RTC, a decision later affirmed by the Court of Appeals. On November 29, 2006, however, the Supreme Court reversed the unfavorable decisions and upheld Alvarez’s actions. His reformist efforts were so intense that Jesuit Provincial Fr. Romeo J. Intengan, S.J., was moved to assert, “Alvarez is a moral test case in the battle between vested interests and good government.”
Complementing his advocacy to fight pollution with poverty alleviation, Alvarez pushed for a policy of creating wealth without hurting the environment. He took a principled stand against efforts of vested interests to compromise the quest for a healthy environment and equitable access to natural resources. In addition, he provided costal resources protection to millions of municipal fisherfolks by issuing Department Administrative Order (DAO) 2001-17, delineating municipal waters for small fishermen.
IV. ENVIRONMENTAL VISIONARY AND DEFENDER OF THE ENVIRONMENT
Alvarez was applauded for his environmental vision. The late educator and columnist Alejandro R. Roces, in his Philippine Star column of October 31, 2009, observed that there are many who have leadership qualities, but men of vision are a rarity. “Alvarez may be considered a prophetic man of vision because as early as 1987 he was a lone voice in the wilderness in our country. Nobody was talking about climate change then.”
Today, Alvarez is a man whose principled passion revolves around climate change and global warming and sustainable development. While serving as chairman of the Senate’s committee on environment for 10 years, he earned the title “Mr. Environment.”
He introduced unleaded gasoline into the country in 1994. To achieve this he brought together the 3 major oil players in the country – Shell, Caltex and Petron – to sign the Healthy Air Pact of 1993, that initiated the drastic removal of lead from gasoline.
• In 2008, as Presidential Adviser on Global Warming and Climate Change, he spearheaded the implementation of Republic Act 9729, known as the “Climate Change Act of 2009” and organized the Climate Change Commission.
• As vice chairman of the Commission, he personally directed and managed the drafting of a National Framework Strategy and Action Plan on Climate Change. This was the first significant effort of the Philippine government to deal with the challenges of climate change and global warming.
• He convened the 1996 Advisory Committee on the Protection of the Seas (ACOPS) Ministerial Meeting where the global program of action for the protection of the marine environment from land-based sources of pollution was discussed.
OTHER MAJOR AWARDS
• International Public Policy Achievement Award, Climate Institute, Washington, D.C.
In recognition of his environmental achievements both here and abroad, he was the first non-Western, and the only one in Asia, to be honored, by the prestigious Washington-based Climate Institute. He now sits as one of the institute’s advisors. John C. Topping Jr., president of the Climate Institute, declared in December 2009 that “Heherson Alvarez is not the Al Gore of the Philippines. Al Gore is the Alvarez of the world.”
• Outstanding Alumnus Award, University of the Philippines
• Golden Oblation Award, UP Vanguard
• Alphan Excellence Award, Alpha Phi Beta Fraternity Chancery, UP
• Ten Most Outstanding Leaders of the North, Tawid Awards
• Likas Yaman Special Citation, Dept. of Environment & Natural Resources.
• Gawad Sagisag Quezon, Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino
• Gusi Peace Prize for Public Service Shining World Leadership Award, The Supreme Master Ching Hai Int’l. Ass’n.,
* M.A. Public Administration, Harvard University, USA
* Studied Liberal Arts and Law, University of the Philippines
* Degree of Juris Doctor, Honoris Causa, Stratford International University School of Engineering and Environmental Management, Wyoming, USA,
* Ph. D., Honoris Causa, Environmental Science, Mindanao State University.
While studying in the University of the Philippines, Diliman he was Captain of the Philippine Debating Team that won Australia’s’ coveted Wilmot Cup after a series of debates in 1961.
• Founding Member, Global Legislators for a Balanced Environment (GLOBE), an international organization of world environmental leaders led by former US Vice-President Al Gore.
• Member, Asian Parliamentarian’s Conference on Environment and Development (APCED)
• Vice-President for Southeast Asia, London-based Advisory Council for the Protection of the Seas (ACOPS)
Through his active intercession, the Philippine Senate ratified various international environmental agreements, such as:
• Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer
• UN Framework Convention on Climate Change
• Ramsar Convention on Wetlands of International Importance
• Bonn Convention on Migratory Species of Wild Animals
• UN Convention on Biological Diversity
• BASEL Convention on the Trans-boundary Movement of Wastes
Major Legislations (Senate and the House of Representatives):
• Creation of the Department of Energy (RA 7638)
• Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law (RA 6657)
• Cooperative Development Authority
• Cooperative Code of the Philippines
• Philippine Fisheries Code of 1998 (RA 8550)
• Export Development Act
• Expanded Quedan Corporation
• Revised Charter of the Philippine Crop Insurance Corporation
• Agriculture and Fisheries Modernization Act
• Creation of the National Commission on Culture and the Arts Law
• Continuing Registration of Voters
• Anti-Electricity Pilferage Act
• Indigenous People Rights Law (IPRA)
• Alvarez is moving today with audacity on the environmental front. He is now in the process of a creating the carbon-cutting war to tackle what is widely held as the single, greatest threat to human civilization -- climate change. The scientific community points to rising dangers from the ongoing buildup of human-related greenhouse gases — produced mainly by the burning of fossil fuels and forest degradation. The International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) points out that if the global temperature reaches 2 degrees centigrade, it will trigger the irreversible tipping point of climate change disaster.
• Alvarez’s strategy is to conduct a bold war that will help remove some five billion tons of CO2 per year by 2020, in essence reducing the total global carbon footprint by 10%.” The IPCC believes that to curb and control global warming, the Earthmust be below a 2°C (3.4°F) increase in global average temperatures compared to pre-industrial times. The visionary in Alvarez sees a multitude of technologies already available to secure by 2050 all the energy we need from renewable sources.
In the exuberant era after the fall of the dictatorship, when the nation reclaimed freedom and charted anew its destiny, Heherson T. Alvarez pursued nationalist commitments for public service that strengthen our emergent democracy. In concrete ways, he exemplified throughout his career the credo of the UP Vanguards: “DUTY well-performed; HONOR untarnished; and COUNTRY above self.