Panamanian environmental and advocacy groups were shocked to hear Panama depicted as a country protecting natural resources at the Rio+20 world conference in Brazil.
On Friday June 22, Deputy Foreign Minister Francisco Alvarez de Soto told delegates: "Panama has created a work plan that ensures the conservation of the environment, seeking to achieve optimal levels of employment with productivity and efficiency.".
In his prepared statement, the vice chancellor was identified as one of a new generation of world leaders who went to Rio reaffirm their commitment to sustainable development.
Alvarez de Soto was accompanied by the administrator of the National Environmental Authority (ANAM) Lucia Chandeck.
Representatives of environmental organizations immediately questioned the statements and claimed the government has double standards because in Rio they talked about environmental protection, and claimed that in Panama there is a clear and concrete public policy to preserve natural resources.
Felix Wing, executive director of the Center for Environmental Advocacy, said that environmental management is going backwards, because there are attempts to relax environmental impact studies and reduce water quality standards. He also criticized the degradation of environmental laws that protect wetland ecosystems.
Rosabel Miró, director of the Audubon Society of Panama, said that lowering the price of mangrove logging permits to allegedly provide employment creates no sustainability.
"These leaders are not what people need. We need people more sensitive to the environment, which in no way is seen in government officials,” he said.
On Sunday more than 35 groups who want to preserve Panama’s historic heritage and the environment, among the supporters were International Council on Monuments and Sites, Pro City Alliance, and the National Association for the Conservation of Nature.