MAC: Mines and Communities

Rp Ranks 125th In International Environmental Protection Index

Published by MAC on 2006-05-25
Source: Daily Inqurier ()

RP ranks 125th in int'l environmental protection index

By Blanche S. Rivera, Daily Inqurier

25th May 2006

THE PHILIPPINES ranks 125th among 146 countries rated by the 2005 Yale Environmental Sustainability Index (ESI), indicating the country's poor ability to ensure sustainable development of its natural resources. The Philippines, one of the 17 megadiverse countries in the world which together account for up to 80 percent of Earth's biodiversity, only ranked higher than countries like Haiti, Pakistan, Iran, Sudan, Iraq and North Korea.

Bukidnon Representative Nereus Acosta cited the 2005 ESI during a forum on climate change and renewable energy yesterday as he urged better coordination among government agencies to ensure sustainability.

"It confirms that we are still largely incapacitated when it comes to protecting our environment, averting hazards, reforesting, etc.," Acosta said in an interview after his presentation.

The ESI evaluates countries based on 21 indicators, including natural resources, pollution levels, and environmental management efforts that characterize and influence environmental sustainability on a national scale.

Scandinavian countries such as Finland, Norway and Sweden topped the ESI last year, placing first, second and fourth, respectively.

The ESI is done annually by the Yale Center for Environmental Law and Policy, along with invited experts from all over the world. The results are presented every year to the World Economic Forum.

"This is evidence that things are not transparent, that people are not being held accountable," said Lorenzo Tan, president of World Wildlife Fund-Philippines.

Tan cited the cases of mining explorations and logging that are being done even in protected areas like the Northern Sierra Madre National Park in Isabela province.

Acosta, a former member of the panel of experts invited by Yale to do the ESI, said the Philippines' ranking was dragged down by its very low performance on social and institutional governance.

Governance, along with environmental systems, vulnerability to stress and disasters, impacts on human health and global stewardship were the major criteria for the ESI.

"What really brought us down was governance. We have rich biodiversity but we don't get our act together, we don't put our money where our mouth is," Acosta said.

He said the Departments of Environment and Natural Resources, Finance, Energy, Transportation and Communication needed to coordinate their initiatives for an ecology-dependent economy.

Acosta said the government's poor investment in science and technology -- only 0.2 percent of the gross domestic product -- was considered an indicator of institutional support.

The Philippines has only around 150 scientists per one million people, a fact that the ESI also noted, he said.

Acosta called for an environmental accounting of the country's natural resources amid the government's aggressive promotion of mining as the economic growth propeller.

He said the development picture would not be complete if the government considered only the revenues and direct benefits of mining without a valuation of the biodiversity and its other possible benefits that would be lost due to extractive activities.

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