Tayo ang kalikasan

Tomorrow, April 24, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources will launch ‘Tayo ang Kalikasan, (We are Nature)” a citizens’ movement for environmental stewardship and sustainable development, in Laoag City. Envisioned as the DENR’s response to the need for more active and inclusive citizen participation in the daunting task of environmental protection and responsible use of the country’s natural resources, the movement serves as the focal vehicle for public and private, and local and international, partnerships.

This initiative has gained added significance, coming as it does right after the annual Earth Day celebrations which netted in the words of participants who combed the country’s beaches a record haul of debris, mostly plastic. In one Cavite town, the LGU encouraged citizens to clean the beaches by exchanging three sacks of garbage (again mostly plastic) with one sack of rice.

No less than Senator Cynthia Villar, Senate Committee on Environment and Natural Resources Chair, has expressed alarm over the use of plastic products and its entry into the country’s water bodies. “The use of plastic products over the years has taken its toll..our marine waters are choking from plastic wastes that have been dumped in these waters.”

In Antique, a province which once boasted of one of the cleanest and productive river systems in Panay Island, DENR Secretary Roy Cimatu exhorted local officials and addressed citizens groups to help clean up rivers. Otherwise, he said, they will end up with dried up river beds in no time at all. “Make it a habit, a part of your daily chores,” Cimatu said.

Indeed, we need intensive government intervention and citizen participation. As Cimatu says, government cannot do it alone. It can only create platforms and enforce laws to the extent that its resources can afford. That arrangement can even be upended if turf war among national government agencies (as in the case of the recent NFA controversy showed) ensues, or worse if local government agencies turn a deaf ear to national agency plans and directives and actively countermand the same.

Case in point—Boracay. It is clear that the unrestrained over development on the island was abetted no end by the actions of the local government which issued building permits left and right, allowed big time land grabbers and syndicates to reign and essentially threw all environmental concerns to the wind.

Not that the concerned national agencies are blameless. Not at all. They had their own share in turning Boracay into what President Duterte so graphically depicted as a ‘cesspool.’ Are the national agencies so blind they have not even seriously looked and resolved the case of the Atis, the original inhabitants of the island, who have been reduced to begging and staying on a small part of the island they once called their own?

Finally, the business sector and the residents are equally guilty in turning this gem of an island into a state of “uglification,” as renowned architect and urban planner Jun Palafox, described it. Indeed, a poisonous mix of business greed and citizen complacency coupled with government neglect has ruined Boracay.

Hopefully, if “Tayo ang Kalikasan” takes hold in the hearts and minds of all concerned and turns eac citizen into an empowered environmental steward, perhaps the degradation will be arrested and we can have cleaner waters, better air quality and more livable communities.

* * *

Interference in the internal affairs of sovereign states is a no-no. Any right-thinking and responsible leader cannot and should not allow any kind of interference, benign or otherwise, in its country’s affairs.

Imagine what happens if tomorrow an individual calls on the United Nations to send a special rapporteur to investigate the reported discrimination of migrants from the Asian sub-continent who are also members of the UK-led Commonwealth grouping. Will Prime Minister Theresa May just step aside and welcome the UN team to do so? Or, better still, another concerned person petitions the United Nations Human Rights Commissioner Zaid al Hussein and the European Union to inquire into the reports generated by the Black Lives Matter movement which, in the view of many, constitute a violation of the UN Charter on Human Rights? Will they ever get to land on US shores?

Indeed, this penchant by some groups to bring to the UN or any other outside body (or force) matters which rightfully belong and should be resolved internally through our own mechanisms is no longer proper. The country is not in chaos. We have a working system of government and we have leaders elected to uphold and implement the laws. We have a judiciary which can mete out punishment and legal means to redress any grievances even excesses of those in power. What’s the big deal?

If things go the way these groups would like to happen, we might as well surrender our rights and privileges, the very essence of our citizenship in a sovereign country like the Philippines to the faceless, clueless and ultimately unelected denizens of these international bodies. And why would we want to do that? 

Topics: DENR’s , launch , Tayo ang Kalikasan , Laoag City , Earth Day , Cynthia Villar

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