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09:02 PM March 20th, 2016

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By: Atty. Gloria Estenzo Ramos, March 20th, 2016 09:02 PM

Yesterday, all roads led to the University of the Philippines-Cebu (UP Cebu) campus for the much-awaited second leg of the national presidential debate organized by the Commission on Elections.

It is a credit to the leadership of the Commission on Elections under its Chairperson, Andres Bautista, that meaningful and quality discourses of political, social and economic issues by aspirants to the highest position of the land are happening. The activity caters to a wide audience and not just at the local level as national media from print and television are partners in this political endeavor. Net citizens from all over the world was able to access the same by logging on to news5.com.

UP, as host, left no stones unturned in ensuring a successful event. It also organized, with TV5, an inter-active talk show prior to the main activity, inviting a panel of discussants from the academe and civil society organization and citizens to engage with each other. It is a brilliant pro-public participation concept that deserves replication in the activities before and after the elections. It is a way of embedding in the consciousness not just of the candidates but of the electorates and the citizens, in general, that these life-saving survival subject matters should be talked about.

This columnist is indeed greatly honored to be invited to do a presentation on ““The Agenda of Climate, Environment and Disaster Preparedness for the Philippines amidst its Acute Vulnerability”. A distinguished Cebuano urban planner, Dr. Primitive Cal, talked on “The Urban Resilience Agenda: Urban Planning and Infrastructure — Roads and Transportation, Water, Waste, and Housing”.

Discussions on the environmental and climate crisis, sustainable management interventions and our response to them are definitely  wanting in the political landscape.

A look at the platforms of the presidential candidates, and these are evolving as the campaign goes to its final stretch, would reveal an under-appreciation on the significance of these issues, except perhaps for the general phrases such as “encourage sustainable use of our resources” and worse, exploitation approach for the dwindling and much-challenged natural ecosystems and resources seeking to “increase the share of local government units in the revenues to be generated from natural resources in their areas”.

These are wake-up calls especially for our young electorates whose future is going to be badly compromised if we continue with the business-as-usual campaign strategy where the environment is sidelined.

More than ever, as record-breaking heating of the planet is being felt,  with February as the hottest ever in the history of the world, we need to push that a sustainable management of our ecosystems be at the crux of the political agenda. Our survival is important, but it requires forceful defenders of our vastly degraded environment.

It is imperative that such immediate focus and attention be made. Cebu City’s farmers in the mountain barangays are already suffering from the deforestation and weather aberration as aggravated by the monster El Niño. Urbanites are reeling from the intermittent water supply. Unlike Singapore and other countries that have put up water reservoir to meet the demands not just now but in the decades to come, we continue to do short-sighted and huge development projects, without the long-term planning that is urgently required. Under our laws, the environmental impact assessment process should be followed, with public participation, as indispensable element, and  which should likewise factor in the effects of climate change.

Much needs to be done for mainstreaming the care of our natural life support systems and our adaptation and mitigation to the ongoing climate challenge in the mind sets of  aspirants to elective public posts, except for the few environmental champion candidates that we have of course.

The Green Thumb Coalition composed of more than 40 (and growing) environmental and community organizations nationwide is pushing for embedding the mind set of sustainability among our candidates and political authorities and electorates.

In Cebu, the Sugboanong Nagpakabana sa Kalikupan (Concerned Cebuanos for the Environment), is part of the  Green Thumb Coalition “Pwersa ng 10 Million Boto”  campaign which is working to influence the discourse in the presidential debates and public discussions around key environmental issues.

Letters have been sent to the candidates asking for their stand on restoring biodiversity and ecosystem integrity, natural resource and land use management and governance, human rights and integrity of creation, climate justice, mining, extractives and mineral resource management, energy transformation and democracy, sustainable agriculture and food sovereignty which includes the fight against illegal, unreported and unregistered fishing, people-centered development governance and waste management.

The leaders who can respond to the aforementioned key issues need to have the  open-mindedness and political will for a genuine transformational governance which is participatory, transparent, accountable and has great respect for the rule of law.

Your choice for the political leaders in the country is important as how survival is tackled  by both authorities and the citizenry is and remains the real issue. Our future is at stake.

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