Message: Inter-Agency National Workshop On High Profile Environmental Crimes

October 17, 2016

Message of Senator Loren Legarda
Inter-Agency National Workshop
On High Profile Environmental Crimes
17 October 2016 | EDSA Shangri-La Hotel, Mandaluyong City

Foremost, allow me to thank and congratulate the Environmental Ombudsman Program and Project Management Bureau of the Office of the Ombudsman for convening this Inter-Agency National Workshop on High Profile Environmental Crimes.


I am honored to be part of this highly significant event, which coincides with a very important occasion—the Senate’s Centennial Anniversary. It offers an opportune time for us to reflect on how our environmental laws are being implemented and how we can further improve them.


In the past years, the Senate has crafted legislation that aim to address environmental issues and pursue the sustainable path to development. We have the Philippine Environmental Impact Statement System, Marine Pollution Control Law, Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, Ecological Solid Waste Management Act, Renewable Energy Act, Environmental Awareness and Education Act, Climate Change Act, Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act, the Act Creating the People’s Survival Fund, among many others.


But if we look around us, especially in the heavily populated urban cities, do we see and feel the bounty and beauty of nature?


The air that we breathe—we have polluted it to alarming levels that we have exposed ourselves to respiratory diseases.


Our waters—our source of life—we did not only use it and used it up, we even dirtied it. We have been using the Manila Bay, Pasig River and other bodies of water as sewerage sites.


Moreover we intend to extract our minerals in 30 to 50 years even if future generations of Filipinos will have nothing left; while our forests have dwindled from almost 16 million hectares to only 6.8 million hectares.[1]


This is how we treat the benefits we receive from our natural resources. This is the mindset of an extractive and consumptive economics, a flawed model for progress and development.


The country’s GDP grew by an average of 6.3 percent from 2010 to 2014.[2] GDP growth target for 2016 is between 6.0 and 7.0 percent.[3] According to the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA), the Philippines remains one of the fastest growing economies in Asia.


Yet, the value of goods and services turned out by our market economy, which government economists translate into GDP or GNP growth, conveniently factors out one thing: the toll these activities exact on our natural environment.


This is the unreported truth in our growth stories: For every percentage rise in our economic activity, for every point up on the NEDA charts, hectares of wondrous and thriving biodiversity are extracted from our natural environment.


Economic gains from exploiting and extracting through unsustainable mining, illegal logging, overfishing and unabated industrial production enter into statistical columns for gain and growth. In contrast, irreparable harm and lasting damage are not made part of the gain/loss equation.


The skewed emphasis on the gains has caused government to fail on a policy imperative—to provide the necessary measures to enhance the restorative capacity of our ecosystems. To nurture nature, to bring our soil, seas, forests and mountains back to health and vibrancy. To heal Mother Earth.


It seems we have forgotten that we are not the only children of the Earth. Our flora and fauna are our brothers and sisters too and the planet is our home. We are merely stewards tasked to look over all creation because we are supposedly the most intelligent of all species. Sadly, we have used knowledge without wisdom but greed.


It is on this note that I warmly welcome this project of the Office of the Ombudsman, particularly its Environmental Ombudsman Program and Project Management Bureau, and all its partners.


It is high time that we seriously look into the crimes against our environment and mete out harsh punishment to those who have raped our forests, plundered our seas, and murdered our ecosystems and wildlife.


In the Senate, I proposed an environmental audit covering the performance of relevant national agencies and local government units in relation to their enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and compliance guidelines to identify where implementation can be supported and how to remove barriers to implementation.


We need an audit not only to know how well or how bad we are doing.  We need to do an audit to exact accountabilities and to establish environmental stewardship as a way of life.


In closing, I wish to express my full support to this project. I am glad that we have agencies of government that have not neglected their inherent duty to protect life and our planet. We are truly fortunate to have dedicated, knowledgeable and wise individuals here today who are willing to help and lead in efforts to rebuild a sustainable, resilient and healthy nation and planet.


Thank you and good morning.***

[1] 2010 figures—latest available study by DENR announced during the hearing of the Senate Finance Committee on the proposed 2017 DENR budget, 20 September 2016


[3] NEDA presentation during the briefing of the Development Budget Coordination Committee (DBCC) on the proposed 2017 national budget, 30 August 2016