Friday, September 19, 2014

Sustainability of Environmentalism

by Antonio C. Antonio
September 10, 2014

More than 20 years since the Philippines adopted Agenda 21, what have we accomplished as a country in terms of our environmental commitments? How can environmentalism be really sustainable?

“Dr. Cielito F. Habito outlined the track that should be taken towards Philippine economic development and mitigating the ill effects on the environment.  He mentioned the various plans and programs to address our problems in the areas of forestry, fishery, waste management, mining and air pollution.  Most of these are embodied in Philippine Agenda 21 and the Enhanced PA 21.  With Dr. Habito’s assertions, at least there is light at the end of the tunnel.

The primary concern of President Fidel V. Ramos during his term as leader of this nation was “people empowerment.”  He firmly believed that when the course of development (economic and social) is placed in the hands of “the people” themselves, they would always pro-actively react since it is their lives and future that is at stake.  Getting people aware of their duties and responsibilities in nation-building and in charting their own future is the ideal way in creating a ground-swell of involvement from the populace.

There is no easy way to get things done.  Development can only be sustained on a long-term basis.  We just can’t do things today and expect positive results tomorrow.  Economic and social development, like environment-focused plans and programs, have long gestation periods and there will be many challenges to hurdle.  Dr. Habito was generous enough to share a “to do” list for success:

1.     Political Will – Getting the national and local officials to understand and internalize the need for sustainable development as the only way to progress.  Political will also entails the cubing of corruption in government.

2.     People Empowerment – Getting people involved through the different LGUs (local government units), NGOs (non-government organizations) and POs (people’s organizations).  Example of which would be the various People’s Economic Development Councils.

3.     Law Enforcement – A no-nonsense enforcement of the laws on forestry, waste management, mining, fishery, etc.  We actually have an abundance of laws to cover a broad spectrum of economic activities.  They just need to be implemented.

4.     Philippine Agenda 21 – There should be a roadmap to sustainable development of the economy and the environment.  PA 21 should be seriously re-visited and integrated in present-day implementation of economic and environmental undertakings.  Where PA 21 works, it should be promoted and/or calibrated to fit present challenges.

5.     Harmonize Laws – We do have an abundance of laws but some of them are duplications and contradictions.  Duplicate and contradictory laws should be repealed or integrated to prevent waste and confusion in implementation.

6.     Harmonize Systems and Procedures – Government agencies often crisscross functions making it oftentimes tedious to get things done because of too much intervention from the different functional departments of government.  The circuitous systems and procedures in government only breed corruption.  This should be streamlined to allow for speedy processing, resolution and implementation of tasks.

If the above-listed “to do” list is diligently followed, I have no doubt that sustainable development is possible in the Philippines.” (Antonio, 2013, “Is Sustainable Development Possible in the Philippines?”,

Philippine Agenda 21 (PA 21) is a country-focused version of UNDP’s Agenda 21.  This was the vision of Pres. Fidel V. Ramos then… but after 20 years little progress has been made in pursuing PA 21.  After three presidencies (Joseph E. Estrada, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and Benigno S. Aquino III) who were and is focused on their own socio-political and economic agenda and not necessarily sharing Pres. Ramos’ vision, PA 21 got lost in oblivion.  Continuity remains to be the biggest set-back in programs that take long gestation periods such as the environment.

In a problem-solving equation, the root cause of the problem is of central significance before we can come up with a matching solution.  We live in a democracy… therefore, we are governed by laws, rules and regulations.  In our system of government, the law dictates what is right or wrong for us.  Our laws should match what we think are for the good of our environment and people as well.  Therefore, to sustain environmentalism, we should focus where it matters most… reviewing, revising, harmonizing and crafting new laws that are pro-environment and pro-people.

Environmentalism is a just cause.  It echoes concerns through the borders of time; both present and future.  In all of us lives the sustainability of environmentalism.

Just my little thoughts…

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