WE CELEBRATED World Food Day on October 16 on a somber note. The Covid-19 pandemic increased food insecurity and less jobs for our people.

The special Social Weather Stations (SWS) July 3-6, 2020 National Mobile Survey, found that 20.9 percent or an estimated 5.2 million Filipino families experienced involuntary hunger -- hunger due to lack of food to eat -- at least once in the past three months. It is the highest since the 22.0 percent (est. 4.8 million families) in September 2014.

With the lockdowns and the accompanying restrictions, business and livelihoods came to a halt.

But human rights should not. We carry it everywhere we are.

"Human rights are the basic rights and freedoms that belong to every person in the world, from birth until death...These basic rights are based on shared values like dignity, fairness, equality, respect and independence." -- Equality and Human Rights Commission (UK)

Our rights to a balanced and healthful ecology, or environmental rights, are deeply intertwined with human rights. Under the 1987 Constitution, it is a duty of the government to ensure such right to each citizen.

The right to access clean, healthy, safe and sustainable resources also means exercising political and civil rights when such is asserted against any entity, including the government, as the duty holder. These include the freedom of expression, the right to access information and justice, among others.

Three national laws provide accountability mechanisms and affirm the peoples' sacred rights to environment and human rights even against government agencies and their officers who fail or neglect to comply with their mandates. Citizen suits and rights against harassment suits known as Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation (Slapp) are provided for in The Clean Air Act, The Ecological Solid Waste Management Law and the Fisheries Code as amended by RA 10654. Likewise, the Supreme Court, in the exercise of the power to promulgate rules to protect constitutional rights, adopted the Rules of Procedure for Environmental Cases, in 2010, to prioritize environmental rights.

The landmark Oposa vs Factoran ruling interpreted everyone's duty to protect the environment as to "include, inter alia, the judicious disposition, utilization, management, renewal and conservation of the country's forest, mineral, land, waters, fisheries, wildlife, off-shore areas and other natural resources to the end that their exploration, development and utilization be equitably accessible to the present as well as future generations." It declared that "the right to a balanced and healthful ecology carries with it the correlative duty to refrain from impairing the environment."

Policymakers and citizens alike must be educated on and live up to their rights and duty to protect the environment. We need to work together, more than ever, to ensure that each family has enough to meet their own needs and the needs of the future generations. It is a daunting task -- not just for government but for all of us.

Atty. Gloria Estenzo Ramos

Vice President