Editorial: Is the government serious about conserving the environment?

WITH the recent happenings in our environment, we cannot help but ask if the government is still committed to protecting it. The government continues to boast of how rich our natural resources are. However, there is still a lot to be done for it to truly conserve our environment.

Let us first commend what the government is doing or has done to conserve the environment. For one, it has embarked on the rehabilitation of Boracay, El Nido, and Manila Bay. Prior to the current administration, there were also efforts to rehabilitate the Pasig River, which has been successful.

However, while the government has been doing some commendable efforts on protecting and conserving the environment, we cannot turn a blind eye on the things that are destroying the environment.

In Luzon, the Department of Environment of Natural Resources (DENR) has approved the environmental compliance certificate (ECC) of the controversial New Centennial Water Source – Kaliwa Dam project in provinces of Rizal and Quezon. The dam will supply water to Metro Manila and its neighboring areas.

According to the Haribon Foundation, the construction of the dam will only submerge the forest in the provinces of Rizal and Quezon. According to the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) submitted by the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS), proponent of the dam, the forests that will be submerged once the dam is completed is home to various species of flora and fauna, some of which are endemic and endangered species.

"The EIS reported that 67 species found in the watershed area and along the tunnel alignment are listed under the IUCN’s Red List of Endangered Species, four of which are critically-endangered native tree species such as Yakal Saplungan, Bagtikan, White Lauan and Tanguile; endangered species such as Narra; 13 vulnerable species including Kamagong, Hamindang, and Tanglin," Haribon Foundation said in a statement.

It added that there are also 69 species of birds that lives in the area such as the Yellow Vented Bulbul, the Philippine Bulbul, Chestnut Munia, Luzon Tarictic and Rufous Hornbill.

"While the EIS report submitted by the MWSS in September 2019 highlights the abundance of biodiversity in the area, it fails to respond to how it will establish and implement mitigating measures to address the impacts of structural development to the affected wildlife species. The construction of the dam will not only submerge their homes but will also impact our daily survival once they go extinct," Haribon Foundation said.

In the Visayas, the Court of Appeals (CA) Special Division of Five in Cebu City denied on October 28, 2019, the motion for reconsideration filed by environmentalist and lawyer Benjamin Cabrido Jr. to stop the cutting of roadside trees in Metro Cebu.

According to a SunStar Cebu report on October 3, 2019, DENR-Central Visayas has issued a special tree cutting permit to DPWH-Central Visayas to cut four narra and one mahogany trees in Cebu City.

Meanwhile, in Davao City, the City Government has cut down trees at Clifford Park as part of its rehabilitation efforts. Trees at a school were also cut down to give way for a school building.

The government cannot tell the Filipinos that the trees had to be cut down as a trade-off to development. That's just plain stupid reasoning to cutting trees. It is also costly trade-off that degrades the environment and turns our towns and cities into hot concrete jungles.

May we remind the government that under Section 16, Article II of the Philippine Constitution, it states that "the State shall protect and advance the right of the people to a balanced and healthful ecology in accord with the rhythm and harmony of nature."

While the government is planting trees outside urban areas, it is busy cutting the trees within the urban areas. Does the government not understand the importance of trees in the urban areas? Do the Filipino people have to march down the streets to demand that the city it is living in is ecologically healthy?

We understand that the government is just improving the infrastructure around the country to meet the needs of the population. But does it have to sacrifice the environment? Does it have to always cut the trees and not work around it?

With the style of national and local governance in the country, it is only when all trees are gone that it will start to seriously conserve and protect the environment. However, by that time, it is already too late -- areas where we can plant trees are now converted to roads or have buildings built on them; new trees planted are not able to provide the full benefits a mature tree can give; our rivers and coastal areas are littered with trash; and large parts of the mountains have been turned into mining sites.


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