Legarda Pushes for Environmental Accounting, Asks ‘Why Are We Poor Despite Our Natural Wealth?’

October 7, 2014

Stressing that 12 million Filipinos remain poor despite the Philippines being a megadiverse country, Senator Loren Legarda today renewed her call to create a system of environmental and natural resources accounting to ensure that environmental considerations are integrated in development plans and policies of government.

“Our ecosystems have been altered more rapidly in the name of development; but the poor have remained poor and their numbers are increasing notwithstanding the emergence of megacities and the increasing ‘GDPs’ of nations. This only underscores the need to establish accountability for environmental issues,” said Legarda.

“The Philippines has one of the world’s richest marine ecosystems, characterized by extensive coral reefs, sea-grass beds and dense mangroves; but hunger still affects many of our citizens. More than three million families experience hunger and those living in coastal areas are among the poorest population,” she lamented.

Legarda noted the Commission on Audit’s (COA) initiatives on environmental accounting. It has already done an assessment of disaster risk reduction and management (DRRM) practices in the Philippines in light of the tragedy brought by Supertyphoon Yolanda, which showed that there is still much work to be done in the area of DRRM.

Recently, the COA hosted the 16th Assembly Meeting of the International Organization of Supreme Audit Institutions Working Group on Environmental Auditing (INTOSAI-WGEA), wherein state auditors from different countries discussed how they improve the use of their audit mandate in the field of environmental protection policies. The DRRM assessment, along with other environment protection and sustainable development concerns, was discussed in the assembly, where Legarda was keynote speaker.

“I commend the Commission on Audit for taking the enormous task of ensuring accountability and judicious use of government and public resources in the Philippines. Without the critical and essential role of the COA, the job of protecting and restoring the environment cannot be done,” Legarda said.

In line with this, the Senator has already proposed to institutionalize within the government bureaucracy a Philippine Economic Environmental and Natural Resources Accounting (PEENRA) System, which will take into consideration the role of both natural and environmental resources and their impact on the country’s economy.

Under Senate Bill No. 347, the objective of the PEENRA System is to support economic-environmental policy development, generate environmentally-modified national income accounts, and serve as a comprehensive data framework in the generation of economic-environmental statistics.

“Our economic development indicators, such as the Gross National Product (GNP) and Gross Domestic Product (GDP), reflect the goods and services produced, sold and bought in the economy. But in the process of producing marketed goods and services, the natural environment generates goods and services that are utilized but are not valuated,” Legarda explained.

The objective of the PEENRA System is to incorporate both environmental and non-environmental economic inputs and outputs for policymakers to make responsive, relevant and effective laws, plans and programs necessary for national development.

The PEENRA framework will include accounting for environmental quality and waste disposal services, depreciation of natural capital, and environmental damages.