Wanted: Co­her­ent poli­cies for sus­tain­abil­ity

ATTY. GLO­RIA ESTENZO RAMOS

Cebu Daily News - - OPINION - GER­ARD PAREJA bekind­toger­ard@ya­hoo.com

Last Tues­day, En­vi­ron­ment Sec­re­tary Roy Ci­matu an­nounced the pos­si­bil­ity for the open-pit min­ing ban to be lifted be­fore 2018. That cer­tainly is a cause for alarm, not just for the en­vi­ron­men­tal ad­vo­cates and the cit­i­zenry af­fected by the se­vere im­pacts but also for our rapidly threat­ened bi­o­log­i­cal diver­sity.

His pre­de­ces­sor, sec­re­tary Gina Lopez, is­sued a mem­o­ran­dum ban­ning open-pit min­ing. Ac­cord­ing to a Hand­book by ELAW, “Open-pit min­ing of­ten in­volves the re­moval of na­tively veg­e­tated ar­eas, and is there­fore among the most en­vi­ron­men­tally de­struc­tive types of min­ing, es­pe­cially within trop­i­cal forests.”

Min­ing im­pacts agri­cul­ture, fish­eries, liveli­hoods, an­ces­tral do­mains, apart from ir­re­versibly chang­ing ecosys­tems and way of life. To wildlife, it is dam­ag­ing as it de­stroys their habi­tats and food and cuts off their mi­gra­tory routes, with re­sult­ing species de­cline or dec­i­ma­tion.

It is widely be­lieved that sec­re­tary Gina’s anti-min­ing stance caused her her post. But, guess what? Her poli­cies were fully in ac­cord with our Con­sti­tu­tion — we have a shared re­spon­si­bil­ity not to im­pair our en­vi­ron­ment, and to pro­tect the en­vi­ron­men­tal rights of ci­ti­zens. Such duty tran­scends be­yond our life­time. This is the gist of the Oposa rul­ing in­ter­pret­ing the con­sti­tu­tion­ally man­dated right to a bal­anced and health­ful ecol­ogy, to which state agen­cies tasked to pro­tect our en­vi­ron­ment must ad­here to. The Supreme Court rul­ing is con­sid­ered part of the law of the land.

In­deed, our coun­try is re­plete with out­stand­ing pro-en­vi­ron­ment laws to pro­tect our peo­ple’s rights and our be­ing an “eco­log­i­cal su­per­power,” at that. The chal­lenge — al­ways — is in the law’s im­ple­men­ta­tion or it’s be­ing made “in­vis­i­ble” by those tasked to im­ple­ment it at the ex­ec­u­tive branch.

An­other prime ex­am­ple, cli­mate change and flood­ing be­ing al­ready felt not­with­stand­ing, is the con­tin­u­ing pen­chant by the lo­cal

Di­hang nagkaisto­rya­hay kami ni Re­sil Mo­jares nga usa sa mga in­ila nga ma­nunulat ug mag­tu­tudlo ning atong dak­bayan gi­hisgutan namo ang pag­pan­u­lat sa pa­man­ta­laan. Mi­in­gon kanako si Re­sil nga dili siya gana­han mo hi­mog in­ad­law nga lin­dog. Mi­pahiyum siyag in­gon nga, “Dili ta kada ad­law bright.” Mi­tando ako kaniya ug midugang nga gawas ni­ana mahu­log na lang nga ku­mintarista sa cur­rent events ang ma­nunulat. Mi­tando usab ang akong kanhi mae­stro.

Pero duna gy’uy mga hi­gayon nga ma­pu­gos pag­tuki ang usa ka kolum­nista sa mga hitabo sa se­m­ana. Ug kon usa kini ka se­m­ana nga puno sa panghitabo maglisud siya pag­tuhog kanila su­lod sa usa lang ka lin­dog. Sama ning se­m­ana nga bag-o lang mi­l­abay.

Alang sa kadaghanan ang pinakadakong hitabo ni­ad­tong mi­ag­ing se­m­ana mao ang paglubong ni Ricardo Car­di­nal Vi­dal. Ka­to­liko ka man o dili ma­ban­tayan mo g’yud kin­ing maong okasyon kay mi­grabe man g’yud ang traf­fic. Gikataho nga kapin sa 55 mil ang au­thor­i­ties, Cebu LGUs not ex­empted, and de­vel­op­ers, for the eco­log­i­cally de­struc­tive dump­ing-and-fill­ing of our coasts, also known as “recla­ma­tion” projects.

Last week as well, Manila mayor and for­mer pres­i­dent Joseph Estrada hosted at the Manila City Hall the un­veil­ing of the planned mixe­duse 318-hectare de­vel­op­ment on a so-called “man-made” is­land in Manila Bay.

Do they know that the Bureau of Fish­eries and Aquatic Re­sources pre­sented a re­port be­fore Sen­a­tor Cyn­thia Vil­lar in 2016 that all the planned recla­ma­tion projects in Manila Bay are spawn­ing ar­eas for sar­dines? In ad­di­tion, it should not be for­got­ten that there is a na­ture re­serve called the Las Piñas-Parañaque Crit­i­cal Habi­tat and Eco­tourism Area (LPPCHEA) sit­u­ated south of Manila Bay. It has “man­groves, ponds and la­goons, mud­flats, salt marshes, and mixed beach for­est all over. On March 15, 2013, LPPCHEA was rec­og­nized as a wet­land of in­ter­na­tional im­por­tance by the Ram­sar Con­ven­tion be­cause of the crit­i­cal role it plays in the sur­vival of threat­ened, re­stricted-range and con­gre­ga­tory bird species. It is the sixth Ram­sar Site in the coun­try to date.” (http://ncr.denr.gov.ph/in­dex.php/89web­page/338-brochure)

This re­minds me of the planned Cor­dova recla­ma­tion pro­ject which stands to dis­place our fish­er­folk who have the “pref­er­en­tial ac­cess to their fish­ing grounds” and to de­stroy one of the largest sea­grass ecosys­tems in Cen­tral Visayas, the loss of which would mean say­ing good­bye to fish and ma­rine wealth, in­clud­ing bakasi and the Bakasi Fes­ti­val.

Un­der RA 7279, The Ur­ban De­vel­op­ment and Hous­ing Act of 1992, the LGUs are re­quired “to co­or­di­nate with the De­part­ment of En­vi­ron­ment and Nat­u­ral Re­sources in tak­ing mea­sures that will plan and reg­u­late ur­ban ac­tiv­i­ties for the con­ser­va­tion and pro­tec­tion of vi­tal, unique and sen­si­tive ecosys­tems, scenic land­scapes, cul­tural sites and other sim­i­lar re­source ar­eas.”

Will these projects be given the clear­ance by the BFAR and the DENR? We hope not.

Ci­ti­zens have the right to know, the duty to ask and to ex­plore reme­dies such as ci­ti­zens suit. The path to sus­tain­abil­ity is in our hands.

It is note­wor­thy to share this from the web­site of the Bio­di­ver­sity Man­age­ment Bureau un­der the De­part­ment of En­vi­ron­ment and Nat­u­ral Re­sources: “The Philip­pines is con­sid­ered a mega-diver­sity coun­try ri­valed only by a few coun­tries in the world when it comes to va­ri­ety of ecosys­tems, species and ge­netic re­sources. Many of the is­land com­pris­ing the ar­chi­pel­ago are be­lieved to have a very high de­gree of land and an­i­mal en­demism. The coun­try hosts more than 52,177 de­scribed species of which more than half is found nowhere else in the world (Philip­pine Bio­di­ver­sity Con­ser­va­tion Pri­or­i­ties: A se­cond it­er­a­tion of the Na­tional Bio­di­ver­sity Strat­egy and Ac­tion Plan, 2002).… “The coun­try is also con­sid­ered a bio­di­ver­sity hotspot. This is be­cause the Philip­pines con­tin­ues to ex­pe­ri­ence an alarm­ing rate of de­struc­tion of these im­por­tant re­sources brought about by over­ex­ploita­tion, de­for­esta­tion, land degra­da­tion, cli­mate change, and pol­lu­tion (in­clud­ing bi­o­log­i­cal pol­lu­tion), among oth­ers.”

The irony of the twin an­nounce­ments on min­ing and recla­ma­tion was not lost on many. The 12th Ses­sion of the Con­fer­ence of Par­ties to the Con­ven­tion on Mi­gra­tory Species of Wild An­i­mals in Manila, was still on­go­ing, with State Par­ties, with host Philip­pines in­cluded, com­mit­ting to do more and en­sure con­ser­va­tion and pro­tec­tion of our wildlife and their habi­tats in­clud­ing hav­ing holis­tic and sus­tain­able poli­cies.

The ques­tion that our chil­dren and their chil­dren will some­day ask from us is this: Why were we hung up on short-term eco­nomic ben­e­fits at the ex­pense of tremen­dous en­vi­ron­men­tal dam­age that they and fu­ture gen­er­a­tions are suf­fer­ing from?

A healthy and vi­brant en­vi­ron­ment is the foun­da­tion to peo­ple’s well-be­ing and pros­per­ity — and we should never for­get that. Live the law!

Salins Hul­bot

Mind­fully Gree­nie ecostew­ard2011@gmail.com

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