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Con-com wants environmental rights in new constitution

/ 11:30 AM March 26, 2018
Reynato Puno

Former Chief Justice Reynato Puno. (File photo by RYAN LEAGOGO / INQUIRER.net)

It is high time that the country constitutionalizes a self-executing provision safeguarding the rights of Filipinos to a “healthful environment,” retired Chief Justice Reynato Puno said on Monday.

Puno said the Consultative Committee (Con-com) tasked by President Rodrigo Duterte to review the 1987 Constitution is keen on including the environmental rights in the Bill of Rights of the Charter to be proposed by the body.

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“It is high time that we constitutionalize this provision and the right of people to a healthful environment. We intend to do this by putting in all these self-executing provisions in the bill of rights,” Puno, who is also Con-com chair, said in a press briefing.

By doing so, Puno said the government would be putting environmental rights in equal footing with the civil and political rights of the people.

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He said this means that like the right to free expression and other political rights, “citizens may seek refuge in the courts anytime for their protection and for the enforcement of such rights.”

At present, the country has several environmental laws and jurisprudence such as the Clean Air Act, the Philippine Mining Act, and the Writ of Kalikasan, but Puno said the there is no existing environmental provision under the Bill of Rights.

Among the Con-com subcommittee’s proposed rights to be included in the draft constitution are the following:

– Right to clean air and clean water

– Right to a healthy environment and ecology

– Right to be protected from activities that destroy the environment

– Right to sustainable development

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– Right to compensation for damage to environment

– Recourse to courts for immediate protection

– Stronger writ of kalikasan in the bill of rights so that it may not be subject to withdrawal or revision by the Congress or the Supreme Court.

The Con-com chair is also positive that the inclusion of environmental rights in their draft constitution would be more acceptable, compared to the more controversial provisions such as the one on anti-dynasties.

Puno likewise cited the lack of strong enforcement of environmental laws in relation to the situation of Boracay Island, which is facing threats of being shutdown due to its environmental issues.

“Given the situation in Boracay and in other areas as well, you can see that part of the problem is lack of enforcement of our laws on environment and these lack of enforcement can be traced to the failure of the among others, local governments to enforce the relevant laws,” he said.

“If we constitutionalize this right to a good and healthy environment, we will be empowering the citizenry to demand to the states to enforce these environmental laws and hold them accountable for their failure to implement these relevant laws,” he added.

The panel would craft the exact wordings of the provision when they resume session on the second week of April.

It is expected to present after six months its proposals to Duterte, who will then submit it to Congress.

Congress may either affirm or reject the recommendations. /cbb

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TAGS: Com-c0m, Constitution, consultative committee, environment, news, Reynato Puno
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