Groups decry slow legislative grind on environment-related measures

Published September 2, 2020, 5:00 PM

by Ellalyn De Vera-Ruiz

Environmental groups have lamented the “consistently slow” processing of environment-related measures during the 18th Congress wherein not a single measure for the protection of the environment was passed into law.

Nilad Metro Manila Environmental Network and Earth Island Institute Asia Pacific have reviewed the bills, resolutions, and speeches filed by members of the House of Representatives and Senate between July 22, 2019 to July 31, 2020.

They pointed out that there were several local measures signed into law by President Duterte in August, 2019 but all of them were sponsored and approved during the 17th Congress.

“Based on the data of 10 committees we reviewed, the majority of the measures are still waiting to be deliberated and have yet to be tackled at the plenary level. Only seven were passed at the 2nd reading and only 13 hurdled the 3rd reading,” the groups said.

In the Senate, based on the nine committees the groups reviewed, only five out of 63 environment-related bills were passed on first reading on the committee level (Consolidated/Substituted) while the majority of the measures are pending before their respective committees.

“We do not pass judgment on the efficiency of the Congress secretariat. This is a leadership call,” they said, adding that “it reflects the priorities of the ruling coalition which has expedited the passage of draconian laws such as the Terror Law but has dilly-dallied on vital measures that could save the lives of millions, especially the future generation.”

Nilad and Earth Island Institute reminded the leaders of both Houses of Congress that the current situation requires the rejection of policies and programs that exacerbate the suffering of many Filipinos.

“We have to stop projects that destroy our biodiversity and weaken our climate resilience. For many years, environment advocates have been arguing the dirty and harmful impact of development aggression projects such as large-scale corporate mining and reclamation,” they said.

“Boosting our environment protection mechanisms will not only make us better prepared in dealing with disasters, it will also give us a stronger chance to survive the next public health crisis. We have to start greening our concept of the ‘new normal’ if we want to address the well-being of our people,” they added.

The groups pointed out that legislators have less than two years before the end of their term. “The next 12 months are therefore crucial in pushing the passage of laws that will immensely contribute to climate-proofing and pandemic-proofing our communities,” they pointed out.

“The 18th Congress still has enough time to rethink and refocus its agenda towards a holistic approach in building a more progressive society. We demand the inclusion of environment protection into its overall plan of action,” they said, noting that there are several bills and resolutions which the Congress leadership can certify as a priority.

These bills include the House Bill (HB) 00253 or an Act Declaring as Closed to Mining Applications those areas declared by local government units as no mining zones; HB00254 or an Act Re-Orienting the Philippine Mining Industry Towards National Industrialization and Ensuring the Highest Industry Development Standards; HB00257 or An Act Imposing Moratorium on the Open Pit Method of Mining for Copper, Gold, Silver, and Complex Ores in the Philippines; and HB03395 or an Act to Protect Marine Mammals and Ensure their Survival for the Benefit of Future Generations.

“We ask Congress to be more proactive in reaching out to community stakeholders and environment advocates. We are ready to sit down with legislators and share our ideas about these environment-related measures. We recognize the uncertain times and we hope legislators will use the emergency situation to reverse the rapid decline of our biodiversity and together let us craft new laws and programs that will ensure a greener and brighter future for our people,” the groups said.