Solidarity Message of Deputy Speaker Loren Legarda: 4th National Environmental Law Enforcement

July 14, 2021

My sincere greetings of solidarity with everyone ensuring that environmental enforcement in the Philippines reaches not just the minimum requirements of being fair, swift and certain, but also topnotch.


The many pillars of the criminal justice system in the country are faced with so many difficulties and are often hobbled with problems that make them unfair, slow and, for many environmental crimes, people expect to get away with their actions, based on the mindset that there really is not enough enforcement muscle to catch everyone.


Basic example:  despite everyone knowing that setting fires to trash is illegal, based on the 20-year-old Ecological Solid Waste Management Act which I principally sponsored and authored, this still happen in the communities.


I was just reviewing my message for this same webinar last year and my points ring true still and we will keep pounding away at these points until we get an Enforcement Bureau set up.  Just to run down some of these points — the DENR needs the personnel, equipment, capacity and budgets as well as the investigative might to go after the enablers of the multiple crimes.  The Bureau will not have to be outgunned, can possess firearms but with training and safeguards, and, they will not have to face TROs from judges. 


But a teenager has already warned us, our house is on fire.  We can no longer wait another year before we pass House Bill No. 6973.  The discussions on it are about other issues in DENR’s structures and I will be the first one to say those are needed too, but those can come after we pass this one.


There have been some gains made by the Task Force even before the Bureau is created.  We need to backstop this Task Force and ensure that they have the proper resources at their disposal so that when we create the Bureau, they can just slide into position with all the necessary preparations.


Again, our house is on fire.  No less than the usually conservative House of Representatives has declared a climate emergency thus calling for a whole-of-government approach in ensuring the strict implementation of our environmental laws.


If we do not see a major uptake in enforcement, if the citizens of this country still feel that the law is honored more in the breach, then this crisis will only deepen and we will all have ourselves to blame.  Despite all our great efforts, we are not yet succeeding, and it is the outcome, not the efforts, that are important here.


There is one special thing about environmental enforcement — everyone lives downstream.  This means that everyone feels the pinch of unenforced environmental violations.  If we are seeking justice, we have to be in solidarity with people who are realizing that highly specialized, equipped and trained enforcement is a collective right and the only way we will see nature continue to provide us with her gifts.


And if all of us are in solidarity, there is no reason we cannot see the light of day in environmental enforcement.


Thank you once again for this opportunity to speak before you.  Good day!