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Eulogy for Senator Helena Benitez

July 19, 2016

Senator Loren Legarda
Eulogy for Senator Helena Benitez
July 19, 2016 | Senate Session Hall

 

Vision, intelligence, resilience, and an innovative spirit. These are what it takes to become a true pioneer, a catalyst for change. Today, we pay tribute to a Filipina who epitomized these characteristics.

 

Dr. Helena Benitez played many roles and conquered many frontiers. She was a trailblazer, a positive and enriching force towards nation building.

 

Aside from serving as a legislator, Dr. Benitez was an educator, advocate of culture, champion of women’s rights, and civil society leader. But among all these accomplishments, I wish to highlight her role as a pioneer environmentalist.

 

Her initiatives in the Senate allowed environmental issues to come to the forefront of national concern. Senator Benitez initiated the first comprehensive report on the State of the Philippine Environment in 1971.

 

She was the author of Republic Act 5752, the Municipal Forests and Watersheds Act, which mandated every city and municipality in the country to establish, develop and maintain a permanent forest, tree park, or watershed that covered at least two percent of its territory. She also authored R.A. 6147, the Philippine Eagle Protection Act, R.A. 6148, the Tamaraw Sanctuaries Act, and R.A. 6239, the Forestry Profession Law, among other legislative successes.

 

Her commitment to saving the environment extends beyond our national borders. In 1972, she headed the first Philippine Delegation on the UN Conference of the Human Environment (UNCHE). She became the first Filipina and first woman president of the Governing Council of the United Nations Environment Programme wherein she brought various States to commit towards the preservation of the environment as a basic foundation of the continuity of life in the world.

 

In 1992, Senator Benitez became the special adviser to Secretary General Maurice F. Strong in the United Nations Conference on Environment and Sustainable Development (UNCED), more popularly known as the Rio Summit.

 

As an environmentalist myself, I cannot help but be grateful for her efforts to promote biodiversity conservation and sustainable development. Her initiatives paved the way for the environmental laws and policies we have now. We are here to continue the fight she started.

 

Today, I hope we do not only remember her contribution to the environment but also find inspiration in her own words, that we should all strive for “One Earth, in whose life-giving environment peace, justice, respect for human rights and equitable sharing of world’s resources and opportunities will prevail and flourish.”

 

Senator Helena Benitez, thank you for your fearlessness, vision, resilience, and innovative spirit. May you now rest in eternal peace.