PARTICIPANTS of an environmental convention in Cebu City yesterday called on the Philippine Government to strip the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) of its “power of environmental protection.”
Participants of the 2014 Environmental Law Talks III forum realized that one challenge to the environmental law enforcement in the country is the conflict between resource utilization and environmental protection.
DENR 7 Information Officer Eddie Llamedo said environmental protection is the agency’s mandate enshrined in the Constitution.
It requires bicameral concurrence and presidential approval to remove the environmental protection power of the DENR, said Llamedo.
Instead of stripping DENR of its power, Llamedo urged environmental groups and lawyers to cooperate with the department in strengthening the enforcement of environmental laws.
Llamedo, local environmental lawyers, law students, government prosecutors and government agencies participated in the three-day environmental forum organized by the University of Cebu College of Law and the German foundation Konrad Adenauer Stiftung.
The forum bore the theme “Mainstreaming Environmental Justice through Science-based Participatory Governance and Effective Law Enforcement and Adjudication.”
A declaration drafted by lawyer Cheryl Daytec described Mother Earth as an ecological time bomb because of consumerist culture characterized by waste production that pollutes the environment.
Apart from stripping the DENR of its environmental power, they urged the government to create an independent agency that will enforce environmental laws.
The proposed independent agency should have a quasi-judicial power and centralized environmental authority.
State officials were urged to review the Philippine Development Plan to strengthen provisions on environmental justice promotion and active participation of communities and other stakeholders.
Local government units were encouraged to assume a frontline role in the protection of the environment being acquainted with local realities than the National Government.
Environmental lawyer Gloria Estenzo-Ramos, coordinator of the Philippine Earth Justice Center, Inc., said the Philippines, in its 2011-2014 Development Plan, admitted that enforcement of environmental laws and policies is inadequate.
“Weak rule of law and the failure of national institutions, including ineffective judicial system, are at the root of a culture of impunity,” said Ramos in her presentation.