Senator Risa Hontiveros files Senate Bill No. 1097 or the Rights of Nature Act of 2019
Pasay City, Philippines – In the midst of the global call to declare climate emergency and the worldwide Christian celebration of the Season of Creation, the Rights of Nature (RoN) Bill has been finally filed today in the Senate by one of the RoN lawmaker champions, Senator Risa Hontiveros.
“This is a historic day for us, RoN advocates. The filing of the Rights of Nature Bill is a major leap towards addressing the long standing issue of environmental destruction plaguing the nation and a strong attempt to mitigate the projected catastrophic impact of climate change in the Philippines. The RoN bill, if passed, can radically alter the current environmentally destructive policies of our government in the field of economics, politics and culture. It will provide another layer of protection to our already devastated environment and hopefully help arrest or reverse the environmental crisis we now face as the earth continue to heat-up,” Yolanda R. Esguerra, National Coordinator of Philippine Misereor Partnership, Inc. said.
Senator Hontiveros, in the bill’s explanatory note, highlighted the urgency of the passage of the bill stating that “As the planet teeters on the edge of an irreversible catastrophe, it is time to make a fundamental shift in humanity’s relationship with nature before it is too late.”
She stressed the need to give nature the highest level of protection saying that “In the midst of a climate and biodiversity crisis, there is a growing consensus that it is time to secure the highest form of legal protection for nature by recognizing that natural ecosystems and processes possess certain inherent and inalienable rights.”
“We are happy that Senator Risa is first to file the RoN Bill today in the Senate and we expect other lawmaker champions in the Lower House to follow suit. We share the same conviction that more than ever, it is in today’s context that effort to change of the legal framework permeating in society becomes urgent. Our environmental laws, although regarded as among the most progressive internationally, allow for large-scale destruction but with little concern for its rehabilitation after. The enactment and implementation of the Philippine Mining Act and the conduct of mining industry today is one terrifying reflection to this kind of legal framework,” Fr. Edwin Gariguez, Executive Secretary of NASSA/Caritas Philippines stressed.
The Rights of Nature Bill intends to recognize that an ecosystem like rivers, forest, seas and its components have rights just like humans. By giving it a legal identity or legal standing, the bill will enable Nature to file a case in court against its transgressors through a representation by people, community, or organization.
The Rights of Nature Campaign
In 2018, the call for the recognition of the Rights of Nature became a strong rallying cry by SALAKYAG (Sakay, Lakad, Layag) PARA SA SANGNILIKHA, a national action which called for the Recognition of the Rights of Nature was organized by Philippine Misereor Partnership, Inc. with CBCP NASSA/Caritas Philippines. The national action was participated by PMPI regional clusters and its Sites of Struggles-mining affected communities, and diocesan social actions and parishes.
The Rights of Nature believes that human and non-humans are inextricably linked and interconnected. Their rights are subsets of a whole and bigger universe of rights. Recognizing the rights of nature to “exist, flourish, and regenerate within their natural capacities shall enhance the rights of human, its well-being and its dignity. Anchored on the recognition of these rights, humans then have an obligation to live harmoniously with other creation, not to see Earth as a property outside them, and something to be used endlessly.
As Archbishop Antonio Ledesma stated, “The word nature comes from the Latin word natus, which means born. That is why we have natural rights, because we are born with rights and not given to us by any government. How much more nature itself? Nature itself has rights because it is born earlier than us.”
The way we relate with nature needs to change. For this to happen, changing human activities, redefining individual commitments and change in political and economic policies should go hand in hand with changing the legal framework that can support the change needed in the system.
Rights of Nature Ordinances to be pushed
Complementing the push for the passage of a national law, local ordinances are being pushed for eco-governance – to declare ecosystems as rights bearing entities. It will work with LGUs to ensure that policies and projects that will help protect and sustain a healthy ecosystem which can enhance the quality of life of their constituents.
The Association of Major Religious Superiors (AMRSP) is proposing a local ordinance to six barangays nearest to San Francisco River in Quezon City to declare the river as having Rights. This is initiated as a symbolic commitment to protect the environment, as Catholics all over the world celebrate the Season of Creation to encourage faithful to examine their relationships, especially with nature. A clean-up drive of the river will also be initiated in line with this effort.
Other RoN advocates also celebrate the filing of the bill
The Rights of NaturePH, also celebrates the filing of the bill and urges the public to support the bill. In a video message posted in the FB account of Rights of NaturePH, Pepe Herrera, an actor also came out supporting the Rights of Nature Law. He highlights the importance of the bill to constantly remind us humans of our kinship with nature.
Association of Major Religious Superiors Executive Secretary, Fr. Angel Cortez, expressed support to the filing of the RoN Bill. He said “In the encyclical Laudato Si one of the striking ethical features is its focus on the intrinsic value and rights of non-human creatures and ecosystems. Therefore, as we fight and support human rights, we will do the same with nature that gives us life.”
Global Catholic Climate Movement – Philippines, represented by Bro. John Din, was also present during the filing. He said, “This bill is essential to recovering our true identity as integral part of the natural world. This is a consciousness needed to face the current climate emergency.”
Bishop Broderick Pabillo reacting to the filing of the Bill said “The young people across the globe already have said their piece. We should be ashamed they have the guts to stand up against the powerful and defend our common home. The filing of the Rights of Nature Bill today is our chance to change this disturbing reality, especially in the Philippine setting. Let us rally our legislators to support the passage of the bill. This is our future at stake.”