Polymer paper money and environment-friendliness

The Philippine Central Bank is introducing a new P1,000 bill allegedly to check whether or not polymer is more hygienic, secure, and environmentally friendly compared to the abaca fiber used in the old design. But is it really the case or plainly a justification to cover-up the process and the real intention of the Duterte Government?

The Banko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) was heavily criticized for replacing with the Philippine eagle the images of the three Philippine heroes Jose Abad Santos, Vicente Lim and Josefa Llanes Escoda in the P1,000 paper bill. Santos, Lim and Escoda are the lesser known heroes of World War 2.

The move, though approved by the Office of the President and the monetary board, did not undergo any public consultation and was not approved by the National Historical Commission of the Philippines — the agency responsible for the promotion of Philippine history and in-charged with regulating the design and manufacture of heraldic items of government agencies.

But while all may agree on the concerns related to “hygiene and security”, the issue of following the process particularly the conduct of consultations, and historical cover-ups exist. Instead of increasing awareness on the three heroes, BSP and the Duterte administration are totally blurring them from historical memory. Worse, the image to be highlighted in the new paper bill is considered to be an emblem of the President from the South — Rodrigo Duterte who is currently facing a case in the International Criminal Court for being the cause, if not instrumental, to the death of thousands of Filipinos under the guise of the drug war.

The worst, and the most hypocritical, justification is the “environmental friendliness” of the new paper bill. According to Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles, polymer-based paper bills are expected to last long and therefore need not be replaced over and over again. It should be noted that our current paper bills are partly made up of abaca fiber.

The abaca plant is not an endangered specie. This plant once placed the Philippines in the world map during the Spanish period particularly during the galleon trade. The fiber have become the primary export commodity that Albay and Manila became known for. Unfortunately, the export of the fiber declined with the discovery of new materials for rope-making and this includes like nylon. Hence, while the polymer-based paper bills may cost less compared to the abaca-based denominations, the government will be killing the livelihood of thousands of families who rely mainly on cultivating abaca. This doesn’t sound cute, right?

Second, if the Duterte Government is really serious on becoming “environment-friendly”, the destruction of natural resources couldn’t have been more rampant in this administration. The dolomite beach could have not happened — an artificial environment that threatened the habitat in the Manila Bay. Quarrying should have been abated also. Unfortunately, that is not the case. The Sierra Madre Mountains in the Rizal area continue to be ravaged and the Destroyer of Environment and Natural Resources have been doing nothing about it.

Below are some of the mountains being ravaged for the sake of money.

A closer view of the quarry in the Rodriguez-San Mateo boundary in Rizal province
Two mountains being flattened as viewed from SM San Mateo
A vast quarry at San Isidro, Rodriguez, Rizal.

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