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Environment & immigration in the news in US

FILIPINOS will identify with two recent reports on developments in the United States, one on President Donald Trump’s appointment of an environment official who does not believe there is global warming, the other on the growing opposition to Trump’s second executive order banning travelers from six Muslim countries and tightening the country’s immigration program.

Our own President Duterte at first opposed the Paris Agreement on Climate Change signed at the United Nations by some 170 nations in 2016, fearing it will hold back Philippine industrial growth, but he finally relented and agreed to sign the Instrument of Accession to the agreement, persuaded by Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Gina Lopez that the agreement is in the best interest of the Philippines. The Paris treaty calls on the world’s nations to contribute, each in its own way, to the overall goal of limiting the rise in global temperatures by reducing their carbon dioxide emissions.

Last week, the incoming head of the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) – which corresponds to our DENR – said he does not believe carbon dioxide is the main driver of global warming. Scott Pruitt is a known ally of the fossil fuel industry – oil, gasoline, coal, etc. His statement runs counter to the consensus of scientists around the world that global warming is driven largely by high carbon dioxide emissions from the burning of fossil fuels around the world.

Pruitt’s appointment to the EPA by President Trump places in doubt the US commitment to the goals of the Paris Agreement. And the US is today the world’s top industrial country contributing the most to the problem of global warming.

The other US development in the news was the decision of six US states to challenge President Trump’s revised travel ban on immigrants. Hawaii was the first state to file a lawsuit against the new ban, on the ground that it would severely damage its tourism industry which depends heavily on visitors. Oregon said the ban violates its laws against discrimination. Washington challenged the ban on constitutional grounds and has been joined by Massachusetts, Minnesota, and New York.

There are today thousands of undocumented Filipinos all over the US who are bound to be affected by Trump’s immigration drive. President Duterte has advised them to return home to the Philippines as he will not be able to help them. There are also many Filipino professionals – doctors, nurses, engineers, information technology experts – who may be affected by a strictly enforced immigration ban, but they pin their hopes on Trump’s announcement that he will propose a “merit-based” immigration system, similar to that in Canada and Australia, that will allow them to stay in the US.

We are closely following these developments in the US under President Trump. His decision on his appointment of an environment chief may only marginally affect us, but his policies on immigration are going to touch the lives of so many of us in this country.

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