Legarda welcomes approval of Better Normal Bill on 2nd reading

June 8, 2020

Deputy Speaker Loren Legarda, Chairperson of the House New Normal Subcommittee, welcomed the approval on second reading of House Bill No. 6864, also known as the “Better Normal for the Workplace, Communities and Public Spaces Act of 2020,” which seeks to establish safety measures and protocols in place as the country adjusts to the “new normal” in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The bill which was approved a day before the sine die adjournment of Congress, not only defines the universal standards on how the public will live their daily lives at home, in the workplace and in their respective communities while restrictions on movements are still in place.

Legarda also introduced amendments to emphasize the significance of pursuing sustainable pathways, protection of biodiversity, and the strict implementation of environmental laws to achieve sustainable pandemic recovery.

“Returning to the old normal is not an option. This pandemic has exposed our vulnerability to health and environmental risks. What we need now is a change in mindset. Aiming for better normal should go beyond institutionalizing basic health standards. How we regard the environment, agriculture, governance, or utilize digital and physical infrastructure from hereon will determine the kind of future we will have 2 or 3 years from now and even beyond,” Legarda said.

Aside from mandating the wearing of masks, observing personal hygiene and physical distancing and institutionalizing other health measures, House bill 6864 also includes the following environment-related provisions that are equally necessary to help overcome the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic:

• Establishment of urban gardens and green spaces not only for people to enjoy a clean and healthy environment, but also to enable them to grow their own sources of food and nutrition;

• Promotion of sustainable mobility through the creation of green lanes which are dedicated, protected and interconnected lanes for personal mobility devices such as bicycles, e-bicycles, scooters, and similar micromobile devices;

• Regulation of the manufacture, use and importation of single-use plastics, development of packaging alternatives;

• Implementation of adaptation measures such as the establishment of multi-hazard early warning systems, capacity building of national experts, construction of rainwater harvesters, and the establishment of seedbanks and vegetable gardens;

• In compliance with RA 9275 or the Philippine Clean Water Act of 2004, ensure that issues on water supply, sanitation and waste management are addressed to warrant the availability of sufficient and clean water supply;

• Promotion of circular economy to aid in the implementation of RA 9003 or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act;

• Ensure that the protection of biological diversity is integrated and mainstreamed into programs and projects to prevent the transmission and spread of zoonotic diseases among humans;

• Promotion of permaculture, and implementation of agro-ecology and resilient and green local food supply system; and

• Enhancement of the Philippine Economic-Environmental Natural Resources Accounting (PEENRA) as part of the national income accounting system to facilitate the integration of environmental concerns in national development planning and policy-making.

Legarda also hoped that this measure, once enacted into law, will not only help people in adapting to the changes brought about by the pandemic, but also encourage them to relearn to coexist with nature. She pointed out that the current health crisis is related to how people mishandle and abuse the biodiversity and ecosystem over the years. “We have made irreversible choices in the way we treated the environment, and we are now unfortunately experiencing its detrimental effects to the ecosystem and to our health.”

“I hope that this crisis has taught us well to be more cautious and approach today’s risks with concrete measures that will diminish our present vulnerabilities. We must pursue a sustainable and resilient pandemic recovery that values the complex and interconnected relationship of human health, the economic stability, the climate, and the environment,” Legarda concluded.#