Following on from the announcement of the confirmed speakers for Plenary Session 3 Climate Change and Vulnerable Communities, the Organising Committee is delighted to profile Professor Gloria Estenzo Ramos, who will present a paper on "Engaged Citizenry for Effective Implementation of Environmental Law in the Philippines" on Thursday 27 June: 9.00am-11.00am.

Profile

Gloria Estenzo Ramos is a faculty member of the University of Cebu College of Law (UC) in Cebu City, Philippines, with teaching areas in Environmental Law, Local Government, among others. She integrates community partnership in the law course requirements, under UC’s Popularizing the Law Program. She is likewise the Director of its Mandatory Continuing Legal Education Program, known for its reform-minded curriculum.

Prof. Ramos is a co-founder of the Phil. Earth Justice Center, Inc., a non-profit which institutes environmental cases, uses accountability tools to promote good governance and assists in stakeholders’ compliance with environmental laws. A television and radio host, she is also a columnist with the Cebu Daily News, contributes to the IUCN e-Journal and is recognized for her advocacy work in environment and governance. She participated in the Environmental Law Training for professors in the Philippines organized by the IUCN Environmental Law Programme and the University of the Philippines Law Centre in 2004.

Abstract: Engaged Citizenry for Effective Implementation of Environmental Law in the Philippines

Environmental Law is one of, if not, the most challenging field of Law as it looks at humans and their dealings not just with the natural world, with themselves and with each other but also in the complicated socio-cultural, political and economic dimensions where institutions, stakeholders and power play co-exist.

The regulatory framework will not instantly make eco-stewards out of stakeholders. A distinct example is the Philippines, a megadiversity hot spot country with strong legal framework for human rights, good governance, environmental protection, resources conservation and promotion of social justice, especially for the most vulnerable sectors. Poverty, population growth, patronage politics, unique State-Church relationship, unabated environmental degradation and vulnerability to disasters and climate change affect the security and resiliency of its citizens and ecosystems and are barriers to effective implementation of Environmental Law.

Amid the lethargy of the regulators and enforcers in the Executive Department, lack of participation of communities in policies and projects, prioritization of extractive and polluting industries such as mining, reclamation and coal power plant operation, the progressive laws of the land and court rulings could not be relied upon unless citizens and change agents from the public and private sectors and civil society work hand-in-hand and engage actively at all stages in the political, economic and social decision-making process.

Keys to an effective Environmental Law implementation, responsible management of resources and enhancing resiliency are multi-stakeholder collaboration at the local, national and international arena, participatory, accountable and transparent governance, strong political leadership and, most important of all, empowered, creative and “unflinching” citizenry demanding accountability from government.

Significant stakeholder collaboration in the Philippines to protect the environment, heritage sites, health and the livelihood of people included the stoppage of offshore drilling in a protected seascape, indiscriminate dumping of coal ash, and wasteful flyover and reclamation projects planned without public participation. National alliances to share experiences and strengthen the capacity of citizens to responsible environmental management are growing. Examples are the holding of the Road Revolution, a movement towards pedestrianization of streets, the first-ever National Anti-Reclamation Summit participated by non-government organizations, people’s organizations, scientists, professionals and leaders from the public and private sectors, establishment of a nationwide Anti-Coal Coalition and the growing influence of the EcoWaste Coalition in shaping public policies related to solid and hazardous waste management by conducting citizen-led testing of contaminated consumer products. More champions from the public sectors are also emerging to make participatory environmental governance a reality. Challenges are indeed surmountable when citizens believe that the sustainable future in their hands, and act accordingly.

Organizing Committee: 11th IUCN Academy of Environmental Law Colloquium 2013