‘Right to healthy environment should be in Charter’
Elizabeth Marcelo (The Philippine Star) - April 24, 2019 - 5:02pm

MANILA, Philippines — Amid the wornsening impact of climate change as well as the gravity of crimes committed against wildlife and the environment, former Supreme Court chief Reynato Puno said it is high time to include the right to a healthy environment in the Constitution.

During his keynote speech at a lecture on environmental justice held in Quezon City in mid-April, Puno underscored the need to “constitutionalize” the right to a healthy environment by including it in the Bill of Rights.

“The most effective way to protect the right to a safe and healthy environment is to constitutionalize the right in our Bill of Rights so that the right will be demandable,” Puno said.

Organized by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), the lecture was attended by over 100 participants from its regional offices and bureaus.

Puno said the government must also “rethink” its approach in addressing environmental crimes by first recognizing the right to a safe environment as a fundamental right. 

“The Philippines, as a developing country, suffers more in the impact of environmental degradation, yet contributes less to its causes. The relationship between man and nature must be anchored on man’s human rights,” Puno said.

“We should rethink our philosophy in environment using human rights as the mandate. In fact, this philosophy should be cast in the Constitution, which cannot be tampered without the consent of the sovereign people,” he said.

Puno led the 22-member consultative committee  which drated the proposed constitution in connection with administration’s intended shift to a federal form of government. The draft constitution was submitted to President Dutert in July last year, though Puno had earlier stressed that the Concom is open to any possible amendments that might be proposed by Malacañang and Congress.

For his part, Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu said the DENR continues to reorganize its field offices – from regional, provincial to community levels – to make them more effective in delivering services to the public.

Cimatu recently issued an administrative order delineating the roles and responsibilities of its field offices following the centralization of management functions at the regional level.

He said the rationalized structure of DENR field offices has resulted in “more coordinated and responsive regional directors.”

Cimatu also cited the DENR’s enforcement and legal teams for effective enforcement of environmental laws, especially in connection with the rehabilitation of Boracay and Manila Bay.

“The directors and staff also enabled an effective enforcement of environmental laws in curbing illegal logging, illegal mining, poaching and illegal trade of wildlife, and environmental pollution,” he added.

REYNATO PUNO
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