EDITORIAL - Political will

EDITORIAL - Political will

(The Philippine Star) - November 25, 2020 - 12:00am

Logging and mining activities are difficult to conceal, especially in rural areas where people typically know all the members of their community. If there is political will to stop illegal logging and mining, these will stop. But what if the politicians themselves are the ones engaged in the illegal activities?

It’s not surprising that local politicians are being linked to illegal logging and mining, which are being blamed for the recent catastrophic flooding that inundated large areas of Cagayan Valley following a series of typhoons.

The House of Representatives began yesterday its probe of the causes of the flooding, including reports that certain mayors were behind illegal logging and mining activities in the three mountain ranges around the valley.

In Marikina, which again suffered massive flooding reminiscent of Storm Ondoy when Typhoon Ulysses battered Luzon, the city government is investigating a private company owned by a congressman, which is reportedly undertaking a reclamation project in the Marikina River without a permit from the city or an environmental compliance certificate from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources. The project reportedly aggravated the muddy flooding from the Sierra Madre.

Around Laguna de Bay, politicians are also reported to be among the biggest owners of fish pens that have caused heavy siltation in the lake, as well as reclamation projects in the natural floodplain. Flooding from Ulysses in several communities around the lake has yet to fully subside; after Ondoy, the flood took about three months to disappear.

Congressmen themselves have been linked to what the Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission described as anomalous transactions in the Department of Public Works and Highways. President Duterte, invoking the independence of the legislature as a co-equal branch, said he could not investigate congressmen, and has tossed the issue to the Department of Justice and Office of the Ombudsman.

These are cases of abuse of power that can be stopped. There are enough laws against corruption and unethical conduct of public officials and employees. Like the long-existing laws against unauthorized logging and mining, what they need is political will in enforcement.

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