No room for indifference

By Atty. Gloria Estenzo Ramos |April 18,2019 - 06:33 AM

If there is one thing that education should inculcate in a person, it should be fostering deep love and strong sense of responsibility for our country, our community, our family, and our planet, and embedding the attendant qualities of courage, independence, honor and integrity. These are values that our nation and planet need now, more than ever, amid most trying of times.

We are all challenged by self-inflicted pressures on our natural life-support systems, and we have to pay the price for such appallingly destructive way of life.

Our forests and trees are bulldozed and mountains are levelled off for so-called “development.” Should we even wonder that we are facing water shortage and food crisis?

Our fisheries are in alarming decline due to greed, ignorance and yes, indifference: overfishing, illegal fishing, pollution, intentional destruction of our coasts, corals, seagrass and mangroves through dumping-and-filling them with soil from mountains and even sea beds, and sand quarrying.

Adding to our woes is the relentless plunder of our marine wealth including the destruction of fisheries-and biodiversity-rich West Philippine Sea, which our State, through the national and local governments, is duty-bound to protect. We are a sovereign country, right?

Hovering above these challenges is the climate crisis that we have to respond to resolutely.

It is timely to ask ourselves: What am I doing to stave off the perilous times that our nation and home planet face?

We have to act and pave the way for a safe, healthy and vibrant planet tomorrow, a legacy that we owe a huge debt to our children and their children.

If government agencies fail or refuse to perform their primary mandate of protecting the people and our environment, our laws provide citizens with legal tools to hold them accountable: citizen suits, coupled with measures against SLAPP, short for Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation, (known as harassment suits) are remedies that we may avail, as not a few have so resorted to.

The latest is the suit of the fisherfolks and the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) members against government agencies to compel them “to enforce laws and prevent Chinese ships from further damaging coral reefs, and endangering species in Panatag Shoal, Ayungin Shoal, and Panganiban Reef.”

Poaching and destruction of fisheries, and marine life, some of which are already endangered like the giant clams, and their precious habitats are prohibited under the Fisheries Code, as amended. Artisanal fisherfolks, already the poorest among our most vulnerable sectors, are deprived of their livelihood and will be further pushed deeper into the abyss of poverty.

Government is duty-bound to protect our sovereignty, our rights and to hold accountable violators of our laws, otherwise, the public officers stand to be held liable for dereliction of duties.

As citizens, we cannot be bystanders while violation of our rights and destruction of sources of life are allowed to take place. By our indifference, we become silent conspirators to despicable acts.

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