In celebration of carless day, I had mapped out two ways of getting to my office in Pasay City from Alabang sans a car.
Today, I woke up to a very disturbing headline in the Philippine Daily Inquirer, entitled “Coral Reefs Twice Size of Manila Destroyed”. Last Tuesday, officials from the Bureau of Customs reported that a “reef complex” off the coast of Cotabato Province was obliterated, destroying coral reefs and killing other marine life. In the opening paragraph of the article, “the crime was described as the ‘rape of the ocean’.”
What are the applicable laws?
- Section 27(a) of Republic Act No. 9147 entitled “Wildlife Resources Conservation and Protection Act” penalizes illegal acts such as “(a) killing and destroying wildlife species…” Section 28 of the same law states that any person found guilty of such illegal act shall be imposed with “(b) imprisonment of four (4) and one (1) day to six (6) years and/or a fine of Fifty thousand pesos (P50,000.00) to Five hundred thousand pesos (P500,000.00) if inflicted or undertaken against endangered species.”
- Section 91 of Republic Act 8550 or the “Fisheries Code of 1998”, outlaws “any person or corporation to gather, possess, sell or export ordinary, precious and semi-precious corals whether in raw or in processed form.” Any person found guilty of such act is penalized with six months to two years imprisonment and a fine from P2,000 to P20,000 or both at the discretion of the court.
- The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora prohibits the the collection and harvesting of endangered species such as coral reefs and sea turtles. We are a party to the Convention, and are bound by the same.
My work in the Senate
On numerous occasions on the Senate floor, including budget deliberations/hearings, I have continuously called for the increase in budget allocation to protect our resources. I know that the Department of Environment and Natural Resources has actively sought for the same, reverberating the call for more budget for the environment. Unfortunately, this was a low priority of the previous administration. Perhaps this would serve as a wake up for the current administration.
On my part as a legislator, I have filed and sponsored on the floor a number of bills declaring various areas in the Philippines as protected areas. To name a few, these are the protected area bills which have been enacted into laws:
- Republic Act No. 9847 “Mounts Banahaw-San Cristobal Protected Landscape (MBSCPL) Act of 2009”
- Republic Act No. 10067 “Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park (TRNP) Act of 2009”
- Republic Act No. 9486 or “Central Cebu Protected Landscape Act of 2007”
- Republic Act No. 9494 or “Mimbilisan Protected Landscape Act of 2007”
Aside from these, I have proposed budget amendments for the protection of areas covered by the aforementioned laws and certain protected areas found in the provinces of Occidental and Oriental Mindoro, Bukidnon, and Davao.
One effective model for the protection of both marine resources and forests is to empower the locals thru education and awareness programs to protect their own environment. I have been supporting and pushing for more eco-tourism projects as well. This has proven to be successful in pilot projects across the country.
But despite the existence of these laws and international convention, for as long as the demand on our precious marine life remains, these crimes will continue. As a people, we must unite and declare war against these poachers and murders of our marine life. Government authorities must act with haste. It is important that we show our determination in prosecuting these heinous offenses. These criminals must be put behind bars and made to pay for their crimes.
This is a refrain from a song in my ipod shuffle, which I hear a couple of times a week when I’m out biking or running. I often ponder on that song and wonder what I have done to make, not only myself proud, but my parents, and the people around me? I wonder if people ever ask themselves what they have done to be proud of this country.
I had planned on posting this on June 12 in celebration of independence day, but as usual got caught up with a billion things. Delayed as it is, I think we should all ask ourselves that question. As a human being, as a God fearing Filipino, does my existence contribute to the general welfare of the people around me, my country? Do I complain about what’s wrong with this country before asking myself what have I done to make it better?
It’s a serious question but depending on your mood, you can answer it lightly or with as much as serious thought as you wish to put into it.
I’m choosing to answer this from a personal point of view, as in what I am personally proud of, and also collectively, as in my views on what we as a people can be proud of¦
1. As a mother, I am proudly raising my two daughters to be responsible citizens who care about others and the environment we live in. During the summer, I had each of them list their energy-saving tips and ways of saving the environment (subject of a future blog). I try to expose them to all aspects of Filipino life, so they understand that there is still so much poverty around us and that each of us can do something to make a difference. I want them to be cognizant of the fact that life is tough for many. Their baby brother Gabriel did not have an easy life. He could not breath without assistance, could not eat without a tube in his mouth.
So every year, we celebrate Gabriel’s life with a 12-hour fundraising and awareness multi-sport event for the benefit of children with disabilities (www.gabrielsymphony.com). I hope my daughters will grow up to be compassionate Filipinos who care about the well-being of others.
2. We Filipinos take pride in our love of family and respect for our elders. We take care of our parents and grandparents. We are proudly the best caregivers in the world, from doctors to nurses to caregivers; our professionals are sought worldwide. But government must not lose focus on the fact that as we supply the world with our human health care professionals, we must also plan on how to take care of our own. These were some of the issues I have been working on locally and abroad, most recently at the Inter-Parliamentary Union held in Cape Town last April (future blog). We need to focus on improving access to healthcare for our own people.
3. I am proudly promoting the cause of health and fitness. I cannot talk enough about how important it is for each one of us to be responsible for our own health. It does not come for free. One must eat well, exercise and live a healthy life. For more on my health agenda, visit my official website www.senatorpiacayetano.com
4. I am proudly fighting for a greener cleaner Philippines. We are working on the passage of the sustainable forest management bill. We are also trying to increase awareness and compliance with our solid waste management law (RA 9003). More and more Filipinos are aware of the need to segregate waste. And yet according to Ecowaste Coalition, of the 42,000 barangays only 2,000 have a segregation program and an MRF (material recovery facility). Is there one in your barangay?
5. We were all born into this country that is rich in natural resources. I am proudly sponsoring bills to declare many of these areas as protected areas. I have called on Filipinos to vote for Tubattaha and our other natural treasures on www.new7wonders.com. But what have we each done to contribute to the preservation of these Philippine wonders? There are rivers and mountains that need to be restored and rehabilitated all over the country. You can each take up a cause close to your heart. (there are a lot of causes, more on these in future blogs)
6. I am proudly working towards the attainment of our Millennium Development Goals in 2015. We need to decrease our infant, child and maternal mortality rates. Today, there are still many women in the rural areas who die of childbirth, simply because they do not have access to a childbirth attendant (a certified midwife, nurse or doctor). Many newborns are underweight, malnourished and sickly because their mothers did not have pre-natal care. Access to prenatal care is vital.
7. I am proudly promoting breastfeeding. Many mothers still do not know that they are capable of exclusively feeding their baby for the first six months with their breastmilk without the need of supplementing with formula milk or food (visit my breastfeeding blog on www.bestforbabies.wordpress.com)
8. Filipino women are the bedrock of our homes and our society. I proudly support women empowerment thru my Pinay In Action programs. Every year, we celebrate Women’s Month in March with an all-women’s run and expo. My team, headed by national team tri champ Ani de Leon goes around the country giving talks on empowerment to young girls and teaching them how to run.
9. I proudly support the Philippine teams that compete in international competitions. These athletes work hard, despite the limitations in training facilities, financial and sometimes even moral support. They persevere and excel..and bring glory to our country.
I could spend a whole day on this list. But the point of this exercise is to get people to think, just as the song goes, â€œwhat have you done today to make you feel proud?