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Lifestyle, technology & development cause environmental degradation

Manila, Philippines

Puerto Princesa City Mayor Edward Hagedorn claimed, during the ‘Kalikasan, Ngayon at Kinabukasan” policy forum on environment held at the Asian Institute of Management (AIM), he had seen the tragedies coming as early as 1960.

“I thought to myself that in 50 years time, sea level would rise by 1 meter. Then, two years ago, the country, pummelled by several tragedies is not only facing problems about the rising sea level. Kapag sumabay ang rainfall,sa area na walang forest to absorb the water, talagang nakakatakot na. Masyado tayong nagpabaya sa kalikasan.”

These are no longer prophesies of the times said local chief executives, non-governmental organizations, policy-makers and private individuals who had gathered to discuss their practices in good governance in environment only a week after Ondoy hit the country.

People involvement

To a certain extent, Hagedorn confessed he was not comfortable with the repercussions of development.
Development, he said, has led people to be fond of new discoveries such as new finds in technology. Yes, this has brought development paradigms and innovative inventions people have been obsessed with but in contrary have contributed to heaps of garbage.

Not specifying whether this was his sentiment after seeing Metro Manila deep into garbage, Hagedorn stressed that this type of development could be seen in the form of computers, Internet and mechanized farmhands that instead of making life easier, had replaced human beings as productive persons.

He also lashed out to some manufacturers who produce items that do not last long than it used to be. They use more raw materials,. Which at the onset generate more garbage in the city after their items become defective and no longer in use.

“This will obviously be our governing lifestyle,” Hagedorn said. “We also have development approaches wherein our natural resources are extracted such as our non-renewables. Is this the kind of development we face these days? The whole world is at the crossroads with only two options: doing business as a usual attitude or choosing a more sustainable way of bringing in development.”

Hagedorn, who is responsible for massive reforestation of Palawan’s and concern on replanting mangroves, said there is a need for people to be involved not only in environment projects but also on all activities which city officials are spearheading.

The need for total awareness campaign and consultation with people are required for any project to succeed. He has been transparent in all his decisions, his decisions and keeps his people informed through dialogues.

In the middle of the forum, attendees raised the following concerns: how does one get to change their minds? What values formation is needed to rethink and move toward the same direction? What are we doing with our surroundings? Who gets the revenue and how do we know that this goes back to the community?

The local officials confessed each of them have no quick formula but shared their experiences in selling their ideas and making their people part of the decision-making.

For his part, Misamis Occidental Gov. Loreto Leo Ocampos thought he would stay complacent throughout his term. His province’s back door entrance after all is where Abu Sayyaf commander, Kumander Bravo, operates. But driven to seek improvement for his province, Ocampos pondered on what the province’s 169-km coastline could offer. He later led the development of the Aquamarine Development and Protection Program to address both environmental and poverty issues.

His main dictum in convincing people is to let them understand what the activities are in the city. The funds coming in and out are touchy subject matters, which should be shared to all, he said. If they clearly understand the objectives, if they clearly see the benefits of sharing, they begin to participate; otherwise they just give you the cold shoulder treatment.

He, however, raised a firm stand on biodiversity. He urged people to let the ecosystem grow by itself without human interference to be able to give birth to generations.

Social security system of the poor
Toward the end of the forum, Prof. Neric Acosta of the AIM and a Congressional Fellow himself at Yale University in 2004, lauded the leadership qualities of Hagedorn, Ocampos, Albay Gov. Joey Salceda, Guimaras Gov. Felipe Nava, Los Banos City Mayor Caesar Perez and Dauin City Mayor Rodrigo Alanano for their practice on good governance in environment. This subsequently changed people’s outlook in life, Acosta reiterated.

Acosta’s turn was not intended to decipher the ills of environment but to stress on a number of intertwined responsibilities Filipinos need to deeply understand. The following are awareness levels which Acosta wanted disseminated: Adaptation (as different from mitigation); the officials to work beyond the 3 Rs of Rescue, Rehabilitate and Recovery; global climate risk; marine biodiversity; effective land use program; constitutional mandate; watershed protection; enforcing Clean Air Act, Clean Water and Ecological Solid Waste; sanitary landfill requirements; saving energy; mini-hydro dams; and the planting of 10 trees per vehicle.

Acosta cited the critical role of governance among local chiefs. He said the more people are consulted, the more they become effective. The call to sacrifice is a primary duty and the right framing on certain innovations are required to be able to create direct impact to communities.

He also described environment as the “social security system of the poor,” poetically stating that “if there are no forest, there would be no society to speak of, and that if there are no corals, what society do we speak of.”

Given the havoc “Ondoy” had impacted on people, Acosta said learning the three E’s would make a difference in life--- Education in terms of continued advocacy; Empowering in terms of the appropriate technology; and Enforcement, policy, regulating frameworks, incentives and effective implementations.

Innovation, given the right framing, enables localities to carry on despite confronting rules in the municipalities. “After all, we could not love that which we do not understand. We could not protect that which we could not love.”

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