The Philippine Star
Tuesday, January 15, 2008
Corruption and the lack of political will are blocking the enforcement of environmental laws in the Asia-Pacific region, lawyers at a United Nations-sponsored conference said yesterday.
While several countries such as
Mehta and other lawyers spoke on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific environmental conference in
More than 85 judges, lawyers and government officials from 40 countries are attending the summit.
Antonio Oposa Jr., a Filipino environmental attorney, said the
“Many local governments, if not all, are hardly aware of these laws. It’s mainly because of ignorance. They don’t even know what the law is,” he said.
Masa Nagai, a senior legal officer with the United Nations Environment Program, said he hoped the conference would boost efforts among judges in the region to improve environmental justice and raise awareness about the judiciary’s role in protecting the environment.
“One of the weaknesses is enforcement at the national level,” Nagai said. “We want to keep supporting efforts in countries to have better capacity and awareness at the national level.”
Meanwhile, Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Lito Atienza yesterday lauded the Supreme Court for approving the creation of environmental courts in the country, a move that hopefully will not only expedite the resolution of pending and future environmental cases, but also enhance the enforcement of existing environmental laws.
“This is a very welcome move. We have long wanted to have green courts which would give special attention to violations of environmental laws,” Atienza said.
DENR records showed that in 2006, a total of 1,529 cases were filed in court for violation of forestry laws alone. Of this number, 962 are still under litigation, 10 are for arraignment and pre-trial, 75 cases have been dismissed, four are for provisionary dismissal, eight have been inquested at the Regional Trial Court (RTC), 83 filed at the Provincial Prosecutor’s Office, 18 archived, and 172 still pending in court.
But international environment organization Greenpeace warned that the continued weak implementation of environmental laws might spell tragedy for the noble intention of establishing green courts in the country.
Sen. Pia Cayetano said the establishment of the green courts in the country should speed up resolution of major environmental disputes in the last two decades, particularly the pending class suit in relation to the Marcopper mine tailings spill in the
Recently, she said there was also the people’s suit filed against Lafayette Mining Corp. for the cyanide spill that caused massive fish kills in Rapu-Rapu, Albay in 2005 and the provincial government’s complaint against Petron and the owners of the Solar I tanker that caused a massive oil spill off the island province of Guimaras in August 2006.
Albay Gov. Joey Salceda also hailed the creation of green courts.
“As the first local government executive to advocate action on climate change, I believe that judicial activism is warranted by the rising risks of global warming,” Salceda told The STAR.
Crackdown on hunters
Atienza also said he had issued an order to DENR field personnel to look for or monitor the activities of bird hunters and act accordingly in coordination with local government and police officials.
The secretary said he was concerned over reports that hunting expeditions were being organized and advertised openly on the Internet.
More than 215 bird species in the