No going back to the ‘old normal,’ says Loren Legarda

Published June 8, 2020, 12:00 AM

by manilabulletin_admin

By Charissa Luci-Atienza

“Returning to the old normal is not an option,” Deputy Speaker and Antique lone district Rep. Loren Legarda stressed, even as she cited the Lower Chamber’s approval on second reading of the proposed “Better Normal for the Workplace, Communities and Public Spaces Act of 2020.”

Deputy Speaker and Antique Rep.  Loren Legarda (Congresswoman Loren Legarda Official Facebook Page / MANILA BULLETIN)
Deputy Speaker and Antique Rep. Loren Legarda (Congresswoman Loren Legarda Official Facebook Page / MANILA BULLETIN)

The chairperson of the House New Normal Subcommittee said a change in mindset is needed, believing that the people’s mishandling and abuse of biodiversity and ecosystem over the years is intertwined with the current COVID-19 pandemic.

“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 two or three years from now and even beyond,” Legarda said in a statement.

“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,” she said.

The House of Representatives approved on second reading House Bill No. 6864, or the “Better Normal for the Workplace, Communities, and Public Spaces Act of 2020,” a day before the sine die adjournment of Congress.

The bill seeks to establish new norms of social or physical distancing and safety measures in government and private offices, schools, commercial establishments, and other public spaces.

Legarda said she 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.”

She explained that the bill includes key environment-related provisions that would help the country overcome the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

These include the 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 micro-mobile devices; and regulation of the manufacture, use, and importation of single-use plastics, with an eye for the development of packaging alternatives.

Legarda said the bill also calls for the 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 seed banks and vegetable gardens.

House Bill No. 6864 also calls for the promotion of circular economy to aid in the implementation of Republic Act No. 9003 or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act, and promotion of permaculture, and implementation of agro-ecology, and resilient and green local food supply system, she said.

The enhancement of the Philippine Economic-Environmental Natural Resources Accounting (PEENRA) as part of the national income accounting system is also included in the bill to facilitate the integration of environmental concerns in national development planning and policy-making, Legarda noted.

“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,” she said.