HomeCommentaryA whole-of-nation approach to environmental challenges in the Philippines

A whole-of-nation approach to environmental challenges in the Philippines

The fight to protect the environment never stops. As far as the Philippines is concerned, there’s a whole range of environmental challenges: Deforestation, irresponsible mining, inadequate solid waste management, and the pollution of rivers and other bodies of water. 

The list goes on and on, thus requiring concrete plans be drawn up on both the national and local level to address existing and emerging ecological problems. What’s more, action must be taken to ensure these plans are actually carried out by government agencies, in close coordination with the private sector and civil society groups.

If the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte wants national security and law and order to be preserved and protected through the whole-of-nation approach, that is, through sustained and resolute multi-sectoral initiatives, then it stands to reason that ecological challenges ought to be addressed in the same vein.

We are already seeing heightened individual and collective efforts to reverse environmental degradation as part of sustainable development. Back in the 1980s, the United Nations defined sustainable development as a system of growth that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. 

Preparing future generations to meet their own needs is precisely what the Church and faith-based groups are trying to do through various programs in both cities and the countryside.

Take the case of Manila, the capital city, where a faith-based social development network has committed itself to supporting local government efforts to save the “last lung.”

Last month, Manila Mayor Isko Moreno signed an ordinance that bans the cutting of trees, dumping of waste materials, and any form of excavation within Arroceros Forest Park. The ordinance effectively stopped an earlier plan to construct a gym and turn the park into a commercial area.

The preservation of Manila’s Arroceros Park will save various species of plants, trees, and animals living in the middle of the city. (Photo by Jire Carreon)
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The city has allocated 1 million pesos ($19,800) for operating the 2.2-hectare wide park, which is home to 3,000 trees and 8,000 ornamental plants. 

The Philippine Misereor Partnership Inc. (PMPI) said the declaration of the area along Arroceros Street as a “permanent forest park” will benefit, first and foremost, the city’s residents. 

“We need to protect the environment from the hands of greedy businessmen and corporations that only think of nature as a source of profit,” read a statement from the church group.

“But more than the benefits for people and humankind, this is a victory for Mother Earth,” it added.

The group also commended the local government of Carcar municipality in Cebu province, located in the central Philippines, for its recent move to save centuries-old acacia trees from a planned road widening project.

“We look forward to a bandwagon [effect] of local governments adopting more resolutions and ordinances protecting nature,” it said.

The PMPI is among those groups at the forefront in the campaign for the passage of the “Rights of Nature” bill, which seeks stronger legal protections for the environment.

The advocacy network of more than 250 faith-based groups and non-governmental organizations operates in partnership with Misereor — the German Catholic Bishops’ Organization for Development Cooperation.

Meanwhile, in the southern Philippines, religious groups and leaders of indigenous peoples are up in arms over development projects that threaten the environment. 

Earlier this month, the Bishops-Beliyan Dialogue, organized by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, brought together Christians and indigenous peoples in a common effort to protect the planet.

During the forum, Archbishop Antonio Ledesma of the Metropolitan Archdiocese of Cagayan de Oro said the Catholic Church wants to foster partnerships with other sectors in preserving the environment. That effort is inspired by Pope Francis’ call to take care of “our common home.”

“All of us, not only those in the Church, but everyone should be concerned for the environment. It is important that we start with our church communities and our [tribal people], whose lives are intertwined with the environment,” the archbishop said. 

Indigenous peoples’ leaders from Luzon and Mindanao have vigorously protested against development projects, including roads, dams, and mining operations that threaten rainforests and their ancestral domains.

The Church and faith-based groups are on the right track in standing on the frontline of campaigns to protect the environment. 

No less than a whole-of-society approach to sustainable development is needed, so that succeeding generations can still meet their future needs in our “common home.”

Ernesto M. Hilario writes on political and social justice issues for various publications in the Philippines. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official editorial position of LiCAS.news.

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