House should go full blast on pro-ecology bills, says solon

By Ellson Quismorio

A Mindanao solon says the time is ripe for the House of Representatives to go full throttle on ecology-friendly measures this 2020.

Agusan del Norte 1st district Rep. Lawrence Lemuel Fortun (FACEBOOK) Agusan del Norte 1st district Rep. Lawrence Lemuel Fortun (FACEBOOK)

"The 18th Congress has the historic opportunity to advance a pro-ecology agenda with strong majority and minority support," Agusan del Norte 1st district Rep. Lawrence Fortun, author of an array of pro-environment bills, said in a statement.

" issues have strong multi-partisan backing in the House and across all political colors, so now is the time to finally enact meaningful laws on sustainable forest management, forest limits, land use, plastics regulation, marine resources protection and preservation, mining regulation, and climate change adaptation and disaster resilience," stressed Fortun, a member of the Committee on Ecology.

Both chambers of Congress (House and Senate) are currently on holiday break, but will resume sessions on January 20, 2020.

Fortun said his fellow lawmakers shouldn't waste the opportunity to throw unbridled support behind ecology-friendly bills this 18th Congress.

"There should be no reason why we cannot pass these badly-needed ecology and environment laws within this term. These will be unforgettable legacies the 18th Congress can leave for present and future generations of Filipinos,” he added.

The Minority Bloc solon lamented that ever since the 1987 Constitution was approved, Congress has yet to pass enabling laws on forest limits and land use.

"The Revised Forestry Code, which is circa 1975, will be 45 years old in 2020. This Presidential Decree (PD) 705 has been amended only on a piecemeal basis over the years, so it remains largely intact," he noted.

"It is a major reason for our country's gross inability to stop illegal logging and save our forests," Fortun said.

"We also do not have armed forest police protecting our forests. The forest rangers of the DENR (Department of Environment and Natural Resources) are powerless against illegal loggers and illegal mining," he added.

Fortun also pointed out that the country "has a plastics plague on land and at sea."

"The plastic crisis worsens everyday but the handful of progressive LGUs seem to be waging a lonely battle against the problem as there is, to date, no national law banning and regulating the use of plastics.”

In early December, the House Committee on Ways and Means approved the bill that would impose a hefty P20 excise tax per kilo of single-use plastic bags beginning 2020.

House Bill (HB) No. 178 intends to add a new section under Chapter VI, Title VI of the National Internal Revenue Code to an impose excise tax worth P20 for every kilo of single-use plastic bags "removed from the place of production or released from the customs house."

"For our fishermen, Congress must support the modernization of the country's fishing fleets, especially those of small fisherfolk so they can do deep-sea fishing safely, sustainably, and profitably," said Fortun, author of HB 4953 or the Balangay National Boat bill.

The Balangay was the first-ever wooden watercraft excavated in Southeast Asia. It is said to be proof of early Filipinos' boat-building and seamanship expertise during pre-colonial times.

HB 4953 seeks to declare the Balangay as the National Boat of the Philippines. (Ellson A. Quismorio)