Environmental protection and accountability

By: Atty. Gloria Estenzo Ramos October 03,2019 - 07:00 AM

October is celebrated as the Local Government Month, with this year marking the 28th anniversary of the signing of RA 7160, the “revolutionary” Local Government Code of 1991. The Code is meant to make real the principle of local autonomy as guaranteed by the Constitution to local governments. They are given powers, functions, responsibilities and resources so that the constituents can truly feel that the government exists to protect and serve them. 

Does your barangay or city make you feel that your well-being matters? 

Health and environmental protection are services that need urgent attention from local governments and the inhabitants here and many places in the country. 

While environmental laws are clear that principal responsibility vests in the local governments, being naturally the one in close contact with the people, it is still largely a shared responsibility with the national government and with other stakeholders.

The establishment of multi-agency or multi-stakeholder management body such as the management board for solid waste management, clean air, fisheries, protected areas, water, fisheries management areas to oversee the implementation of the laws is a recognition of the joint responsibility in ensuring that the environment is healthy, safe, thriving and sustainable. 

But, the lack of coordination and communication among government agencies is usually a reason for inaction and the almost nil implementation of our laws. 

Non-government organizations play a pivotal role in bridging and narrowing that huge gap and so do local authorities who are sincere and committed to make lives better in their areas, irrespective of political affiliations. These are the exemplary local chief executives who invite and appreciate the crucial role of civil society and other key stakeholders in helping them perform their mandates and kudos to them. They inspire other young political leaders to emulate the path of servant leadership that we all wish would be the mantra of many among our authorities.

With power comes responsibilities. We need more political authorities who don’t flinch when it comes to implementation of our laws. We also need more constituents to be active participants in decision-making and holding accountable those who transgress our laws. 

The Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) performs a very important function in supervising local governments especially in the mandate of environmental protection. It makes sure that they act within the scope of their powers and perform their mandates.

DILG Secretary Eduardo Aňo’s leadership in instilling a high degree of professionalism, discipline and accountability among local governments and the people is commendable. The clearing of roads and sidewalks is getting to be a reality and the burden is on the local authorities who should have done this a long time ago. As DILG declared, 

“We wish to remind all city and municipal mayors that the power to discipline negligent or uncooperative barangay captains is in your hands. Under the Local Government Code, you are the primary disciplining authority over your Punong Barangays, therefore, we urge you to utilize your powers – without fear or favor – whenever necessary and make them accountable for their performance…We hope that this program starts a culture of discipline that our country desperately needs. Let our battle cry be #DisplinaMuna in order to sustain the gains that we have achieved for the long run.”

Public safety, public health, healthy planet and people, and yes, accountability go hand in hand.

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