By RITCHE T. SALGADO
CEBU CITY – A new broad alliance in Cebu initiated the gathering of 10-million signatures for the environment.
The Visayas Climate Action Network (Visayas CAN) aims to convince the public to start becoming more responsible for their actions.
“Not all change begins with the government,” said Ramon Magsaysay awardee and environmental lawyer and advocate Antonio A. Oposa Jr. “Sometimes change starts within one’s self.”
Oposa said the petition, or commitment, as he prefers to call it, is a plea for “us to take personal action.” “This is an expression of our individual and collective will… (to recognize) that environment security is the highest form of national security,” he said.
Oposa added that the commitment paper will go its round throughout the 13 regions of the country, and would be presented to the public on April 22, 2010.
Oposa cited two reasons for the deadline. “First is because it is the day when we celebrate Earth Day. And secondly, this is just two to three weeks before the national elections,” he said, adding that the commitment paper will be presented to candidates to show to them that ilipinos take environmental issues seriously.
The environmental lawyer said his group has already asked the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to schedule a debate on environmental issues among the candidates.
Lawyer Francine Faith Longid-Dalumpines, deputy team leader of the environmental team of the Office of the Ombudsman was happy to share the positive outcome of their environmental compliance audit last June.
Dalumpines revealed that most of those they audited along the Visayan sea have started to take action on the recommendations that they have presented during their initial visit last November 2008.
Dalumpines said that Masbate town has been making efforts to strictly implement RA 8550, otherwise known as the Fisheries Code of the Philippines. This includes the putting up of marine sanctuaries and its monitoring. Cebu, Negros and Iloilo, however, are keen on solid waste management, including the putting up of material recovery facilities (MRF), Dalumpines noted.
“What they need to understand is that the MRF should be functional. It does not matter if it covers several barangays, as long as it serves all the areas covered,” she said.
Dalumpines, however, echoed the urgency for Cebu, Negros and Iloilo to also strictly implement the Fisheries Code, explaining that local government units should know how to establish and protect marine sanctuaries, as this would also affect the economic climate of the place.
Oposa is jubilant with current developments on the environmental movement in Central Visayas, saying that many of their efforts have bore fruit. He cited the closing of the dumpsite in Mandaue City last June 5, commending Mayor Jonas Cortes for bold action, despite criticisms from the local media and some of his constituents in City Hall.
He said that Iloilo City will follow suit through the efforts of the Iloilo chapter of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines.
Lawyer Gloria Estenzo-Ramos added that it is high time for public officials to do its mandate. She called on LGUs to include stakeholders in the planning and implementation of the projects. “We need participatory governance. They should reach out to the stakeholders,” she said.
She added that the private sector, through civil society groups, should take the initiative to compel government to act for the environment.
“But they must also be backed by the Ombudsman, because we observed that if a notice would come from the Ombudsman, officials would not hesitate to act,” Ramos said. (Bulatlat.com)