TO ENABLE Negros Occidental to march in lockstep with the global efforts toward the green economy, it is important that our Sangguniang Panlalawigan and the Office of the Governor adopt the Rio principles on sustainable development.

The United Nations Development Program pointed out that “sustainable development is as much about health, education, and jobs, as it is about ecosystems. It is about ever widening inclusion and movement away from decisions that erode democratic space and do not address social inequality, intolerance, and violence.”

Sustainable development is about change that transforms impoverished peoples, communities, and countries into informed, educated, healthy and productive societies. It is about wealth creation that generates equality and opportunity; it is about consumption and production patterns that respect planetary boundaries; it is about increasing tolerance and respect for human rights.

Many of these principles seem relatively easy to achieve since most can be found in our Constitution and national laws and local ordinances. Take “Human beings are at the center of concerns for sustainable development. They are entitled to a healthy and productive life in harmony with nature.”

(Principle 1)

Another is “the right to development must be fulfilled so as to equitably meet developmental and environmental needs of present and future generations.

(Principle 3)

This is the human rights and ecological framework for sustainable development. Who can one disagree with this? However, do we see this in practice?

Can we honestly say that mountain communities get the same slice of the development pie compared to those living in their barangay proper, lowland rural communities, cities and towns’ centers? Sadly the answer would be no. Mountain peoples can be construed as children of a lesser god.

Then there’s the principle that “States should reduce and eliminate unsustainable patterns of production and consumption and promote appropriate demographic policies.”

(Principle 8)

Fortunately, the provincial government and some city and municipal governments have adopted the Negros Island organic food bowl and enacted the necessary laws to back this concept. Organic food production tremendously increased in the mountain areas. The province gets a B+ grade on this.

Can we get non-timber forest product development off the ground as well to conserve the trees in our tropical forests while providing the human communities with sources of livelihoods as well? That way, we can avoid the cat-and-mouse game with timber poachers who convert endemic trees to charcoal.

For the simple reason that Negros Occidental still relies as its main source of livelihood in the countryside based on the sugarcane monoculture. Dependence on a monocrop can never be considered as eliminating “unsustainable patterns of production and consumption.”

How about this one? “To protect the environment, the precautionary approach shall be widely applied by States according to their capabilities. Where there are threats of serious or irreversible damage, lack of full scientific certainty shall not be used as a reason for postponing cost-effective measures to prevent environmental degradation.

(Principle 15)

The province gets an A+ grade on this one. Our policy-makers have adopted the precautionary principle with the passage of the anti-GMO law or Provincial Ordinance 07, Series of 2007, otherwise known as the James Bond ordinance.

Another Rio principle is that “National authorities should endeavor to promote the internalization of environmental costs and the use of economic instruments, taking into account the approach that the polluter should, in principle, bear the cost of pollution, with due regard to the public interest and without distorting international trade and investment.”

(Principle 16)

So there’s the national policy on ecological solid waste management. Many Negrense towns get a B or A grade on this. I cannot say the same thing on energy, though. The country still largely relies on coal-fired plants based on President Aquino’s argument that renewable are “expensive.” By implication, pollution clean-up is cheaper.