The Laws On Nature
Numerous laws have been enacted, but what matters more is implementation and enforcement.
BY GRACE BAUTISTA
Decades after the release of numerous environmental documentaries, the predictions are coming true—untimely typhoons, catastrophic wildfires, melting glaciers, and a wildlife extinction list that is growing every year. Climate change has become a pressing issue, and President Rodrigo Duterte agrees wholeheartedly.
The President, for the first time, spoke before the United Nations (UN) General Assembly, appealing to the parties of the Paris Agreement to comply with the terms. “Climate change has worsened the ravages of the pandemic. People in developing countries, like the Philippines, suffer the most.
We cannot afford to suffer more,” President Duterte said. “The Philippines joined the Paris Agreement to fight climate change. We call on all parties, especially those who have not made good their commitment to fight climate change, to honor the same.” President Duterte signed the Paris Agreement in 2017, in effect making the Philippines one of 125 participating parties. “We call on all parties to strengthen communities and peoples for preparedness and resilience.
We are talking about mankind and Earth, our one and only home,” the President added. Early September, the Duterte Administration proposed a budget of P181.9 billion for projects and departments to address climate change.
Around P26.5 billion will go to the Environment Department (Forest Protection Program, National Greening Program, and the Protected Areas Development and Management Program), P2.1 billion is allocated for the Energy Department (Total Electrification Project, and exploration and development of renewable energy sources and technologies), and P128 million is allocated to the National Water Resources Board for water security programs.
While there is an allocation in the national budget to address environmental concerns, many are concerned with the strength of laws and legislation to execute key initiatives.
With regard to available legislation that protects the environment, “The Philippine government has enacted approximately 118 environment related laws. It would seem that there is sufficient, if not superfluous, environmental law in both substance and form in the Philippines,” says environmental lawyer Antonio A. Oposa Jr. in his article, “Legal Marketing of Environmental Law,” in the Duke Journal of Comparative and International Law. “To repeat, the Philippine environmental law is thorough and complete.
The level of implementation, however, suffers in the sickbed of non-compliance.” Here are some of the policies that protect our country’s biodiversity and address global climate: Philippine Environmental Policy (Presidential Decree 1151) Everyone has the right to a safe, clean, and healthy environment.
This much is recognized by the Philippine Environmental Policy. In the decree, President Ferdinand Marcos noted the population growth, increasing urbanization, industrial expansion, and rapid natural resources utilization, which “resulted in a piecemeal-approach concept of environmental protection.”
This “tunnel-vision concept,” he lamented, was not conducive to attaining an ideal environment where Filipino people can thrive alongside nature. To pursue this cause, government agencies, GOCCs, and private corporations, among others are required to submit an Environmental Impact Statement to assess how every action /project will affect the environment.
Philippine Environment Code (Presidential Decree 1152)
On June 6, 1977, the Philippine Environment Code was signed, following the Philippine Environmental Policy. As the state of the environment had become a “matter of vital concern to the government,” the Code issued standards, regulation and enforcement, and monitoring and protection measures concerning the quality of air, water, and land.
The Code also placed importance on Natural Resource Management and Conservation, which enumerated policies on the following: fisheries and aquatic resources, wildlife, forestry and soil, flood control and natural calamities, energy development, surface and ground waters, and mineral resources. Other sections of the Code focused on waste management and miscellaneous provisions.
Toxic Substances, Hazardous and Nuclear Waste Control Act of 1990 (Republic Act 6969)
The policy regulates, restricts, and prohibits the importation, manufacture, processing, sale, distribution, use, and disposal of chemical substances and mixtures that present unreasonable risk or injury to health or environment. It also covers the entry (even in transit), keeping, storage, and disposal of hazardous and nuclear wastes in the Philippines. As the implementing agency, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) is tasked with keeping an updated inventory of chemicals presently manufactured or used in the country, testing chemical substances and mixtures that present unreasonable risk to health or environment, and evaluating chemical characteristics to determine their toxicity and effects to health and environment, among others.
Philippine Clean Air Act of 1999 (Republic Act 8749)
This law aims to achieve and maintain clean air in the entire country by ensuring to meet the National Air Quality guideline values for criteria pollutants, while minimizing possible economic impact. Under the Act, the state, through the DENR, shall formulate a holistic national program of air pollution management, encourage cooperation and self-regulation among citizens and industries, focus on pollution prevention (rather than control), provide a comprehensive management program for air pollution, promote public information and education, and formulate and enforce a system of accountability for violators.
Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000 (Republic Act 9003) RA 9003
Aims to adopt a systematic, comprehensive, and ecological solid waste management program by ensuring the proper segregation, collection, storage, treatment, and disposal of solid waste. The Act also promotes the use of ecowaste product
Local Government Units (LGUs) are primarily responsible for the implementation and enforcement of the Act within their respective jurisdictions. Segregation and collection of solid waste is conducted at the barangay-level for biodegradable, compostable, and reusable wastes. However, the municipality or city is responsible for the collection of non-recyclable materials and special wastes.
Philippine Clean Water Act of 2004 (Republic Act 9275) RA 9275
Aims to protect the Philippines’ water bodies (fresh, brackish, and marine waters) from pollution coming from land-based sources (industries, commercial establishments, agriculture, and community/household activities).
Among its policies are to formulate a holistic national program for water quality management, formulate an integrated water quality management framework, promote commercial and industrial processes and products that are environmentally-friendly and energyefficient, and to promote public information and education.
Climate Change Act of 2009 (Republic Act 9729)
The Act established the Climate Change Commission (CCC) under the Office of the President as the principal climate policymaking authority. It is tasked to coordinate, monitor, and evaluate the programs and action plans of the government related to climate change. In 2012, the Act was amended by Republic Act 10174. This established the People’s Survival Fund (PSF), which provides long-term climate financing for climate adaptation initiatives by LGUs and people’s organizations.
KYOTO PROTOCOL AND DOHA AMENDMENT
As one of the signatory parties to the Kyoto Protocol, the Philippines is committed to limiting and reducing our country’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in accordance with the agreed individual objectives. The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change asks the countries involved to adopt the agreed policies and mitigation measures and report periodically. Currently there are 192 parties in the Kyoto Protocol, which was adopted on Dec. 11, 1997 and entered into force on Feb. 16, 2005. The first commitment period (2008- 2012) established a target emission reduction of 5%; while the second commitment period (2013-2020) established in Doha, Qatar, on Dec. 8, 2012, set a target of at least 18%.
On April 22, 2016 (Earth Day), at the UN Headquarters in New York, the Paris Agreement was opened for signatures and reached a total of 125 parties by 2017.
The agreement recognized the need for an effective and progressive response to climate change, while also recognizing the special circumstances of developing country parties since these countries are particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change.
The Agreement aims to maintain a global average temperature increase to well below 2° above pre-industrial levels, and limit temperature increase to 1.5° above pre-industrial levels. It also seeks to adapt to climate change impacts, foster climate resilience, and reduce GHG emissions without threatening food production. All parties are required to “put forward their best efforts through Nationally-Determined Contributions (NDCs) and strengthen these efforts in the years ahead.” This includes a regular report on the country’s emissions and implementation efforts and a global stocktake every five years to assess the collective progress.
PHILIPPINE GREEN JOBS ACT OF 2016 (REPUBLIC ACT 10771)
To foster low-carbon, resilient, sustainable growth and decent job creation, businesses that generate “green jobs” are provided incentives through this law. Green jobs are defined as those which help “protect ecosystems and biodiversity; reduce energy, materials, and water consumption through high-efficiency strategies; decarbonize the economy; and minimize or eliminate the generation of all forms of waste and pollution.” Through this act, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) is mandated to formulate a National Green Jobs Human Resource Development Plan, which jumpstarts the transition of the country into a green economy.