Politics and Environment

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INTRODUCTION
The Philippines is indeed a country that was blessed with a very rich biodiversity. It is one of the 17 countries in the world that are the richest in biodiversity. More than 52,177 species have been identified, half of them are found nowhere else in the world. But, according to the biodiversity conservation priorities of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), ‘the Philippines is one of the few countries in the world that is both a mega-diversity country and a biodiversity hotspot. It has fragile tropical ecosystems and is an outstanding biodiversity hotspot. The DENR has described the Philippines as the ‘hottest of hotspots’ in the world in terms of threats to its ‘mega diverse’ biodiversity. It highlighted the ‘urgent need to properly manage natural resources and protect the environment’. In a once densely forested country, which today has the second lowest forest cover in the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN), this is not an overstatement. The loss of forest has resulted in increased flooding, devastating landslides, siltation and the destruction of biodiversity areas. Pollution is also considered as one of the country’s main problems pertaining to the environment.

Decline of Natural Resources and Biodiversity

At present, Philippines is suffering from degradation of the natural environment. It has fifty major rivers now polluted due to abuse and neglect. Approximately two-thirds of the country's original mangroves have been lost. A hundred years ago, the Philippines had close to 22 million hectares of old growth forest. At the start of 2000, we had less than 600,000 hectares of old-growth forest left. In one century, we had cut down close to 97 percent of our original forest. A study by the Environmental Scientists for Social Change (ESSC) reveals that we have systematically cut this forest down and that we have not stopped its destruction and that of its core biodiversity.

The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) estimates that it takes over 4,000 liters of water to produce one kilo of rice. Because of the loss of forests, we have less water since most of our freshwater comes from watersheds found in forests. Therefore, loss of forests means loss of food.

More than 400 plant and animal species found in the Philippines are currently threatened with extinction, including the Philippine eagle, the tamaraw, and the dugong. In 2001, 49 of the nation's mammal species, 86 bird species, and 320 plant species were threatened with extinction. Endangered species in the Philippines include the monkey-eating eagle, Philippine tarsier, tamaraw, four species of turtle (green sea, hawksbill, olive ridley, and leatherback), Philippines crocodile, sinarapan, and two species of butterflies. The Cebu warty pig, Panay flying fox, and Chapman's fruit bat have become extinct.

Despite all of these, Philippines has established strong laws designed to protect the environment, communities and the indigenous people. But the big question is, are those laws are being implemented? Do government officials have political will to implement those laws? Is the political governance strong enough to secure its environment?

Environmental Governance

Environmental governance has been defined in several ways: i) “the whole range of rules, practices and institutions related to the management of the environment in its different forms (conservation, protection, exploitation of natural resources, etc.).”; ii) “all the processes and institutions, both formal and informal, that encompass the standards, values, behaviour and organizing mechanisms used by citizens, organizations and social movements as well as the different interest groups as a basis for linking up their interests, defending their differences and exercising their rights and obligations in terms of accessing and using natural resources.”; and iii) "the formal and informal institutions, rules, mechanisms and processes...
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