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Former CJ Puno proposes to include right to safe and healthy environment in the Constitution

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By Ellalyn De Vera-Ruiz

Former Chief Justice Reynato Puno believes on the need for the Philippines to ‘constitutionalize’ the right to a healthy environment by including it in the Bill of Rights.

Retired Chief Justice Reynato Puno (COMMONS WIKIMEDIA / MANILA BULLETIN)

Retired Chief Justice Reynato Puno (COMMONS WIKIMEDIA / MANILA BULLETIN)

“The most effective way to protect the right to a safe and healthy environment is to constitutionalize the right in our Bill of Rights so that the right will be demandable,” Puno said during the first Department of Environment and Natural Resources-led (DENR) Distinguished Lecture Series held last April 15.

The country’s former top magistrate said it is also high time for the country to “rethink” its approach to the environment, as he spoke about the challenge of addressing environmental crime and justice.

“The Philippines, as a developing country, suffers more in the impact of environmental degradation, yet contributes less to its causes. The relationship between man and nature must be anchored on man’s human rights,” Puno pointed out.

“We should rethink our philosophy in environment using human rights as the mandate. In fact, this philosophy should be cast in the Constitution, which cannot be tampered without the consent of the sovereign people,” he added.

DENR Secretary Roy Cimatu said DENR continues to reorganize its field offices—from regional, provincial to community levels—to make them more effective in delivering service to the public.

He earlier issued an administrative order delineating the roles and responsibilities of its field offices following the centralization of management functions at the regional level.

He said the rationalized structure of DENR field offices has resulted in “a more coordinated and responsive regional directors.”

At the same time, Cimatu cited DENR’s enforcement and legal teams for playing crucial roles in attaining effective enforcement of environmental laws, especially in the rehabilitation of Boracay and Manila Bay.

“The effective enforcement of environmental laws has been evident as the teams have made considerable impact on curbing environmental degradation in Boracay and, now, in Manila Bay,” Cimatu said.

“The directors and staff also enabled an effective enforcement of environmental laws in curbing illegal logging, illegal mining, poaching and illegal trade of wildlife, and environmental pollution,” he added.

The lecture series, which aims to stimulate critical thinking within the DENR to support the Manila Bay and Boracay rehabilitation projects, is organized by the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Legal Affairs.

Puno expressed hope the lecture series will be used as a platform by “scholars who are possessed with longitudinal vision of our environmental problems.”

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