Paradigm shift in green advocacy


At present, there are big gaps between the government and nongovernment sectors that inhibit better governance and advocacy. The two sectors do not see eye to eye; one accuses the other of misdeeds. They have somehow acquired the modus operandi of not talking to each other, and believe they can work on their own. This is true for the many issues of today—environment, energy, agriculture, agrarian reform, defense, and so on.

For the nongovernment sector, advocacy becomes mostly exposing the corruption or inefficiency of the government. For the government, it is mostly defending itself from accusations. Both are distracted from their true visions and goals. It becomes a state of war, and the losers are the Filipino people.

Bert Guevara, country coordinator of Earth Day Network Philippines Inc. (EDNPI), says there is now an ongoing paradigm shift in green advocacy. Realizing the counterproductive environment of war, Guevara says: “There is a better way.” EDNPI leads a host of nongovernment organizations shifting from war to cooperation, and achieving a more productive alliance between the government and nongovernment sectors in plans and projects.

As advocated by the late EDNPI founder Odette Alcantara, there are four key sectors for collaboration—Church/faith, business, government, and civil society, all serving the common  tao. “The old way is mostly  kanya-kanya  (to each his own). They don’t even talk to each other. They regard each other with suspicion.  Kalimutan  muna  yung  tirahan (Forget criticisms for now). EDNPI’s mission is to fill the vacuum,” Guevara says.

Odette Alcantara pioneered the paradigm shift in EDNPI reforestation efforts by establishing cooperation with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, a former “archenemy” which provided the seeds, local government units which became “co-advocates,” harnessing free labor from communities and schools, and the military, which provided logistics such as transport vehicles, and even aircraft for aerial seeding. The power of cooperation meant a massive successful reforestation effort. The end result: more goals achieved by all four sectors.

Guevara argues that these goals coincide, all aiming to serve the Filipino people. Institutional teamwork works wonders.

He cites the value of relationship-building in another EDNPI project, the “Earth Day Ecology Fair,” where all four sectors meet and work together. SM will feature the fair, where eco-friendly products, ideas, and advocacies will be presented, in all of its 46 malls nationwide. The focus will be at the SM Megamall on April 16 and 17. At other malls, the fair may go on for a week, depending on the mall managers.

The fair will be a venue for the four key sectors to compare notes, share assets, and brew new eco-projects together.

The DENR will bring in the provincial and city environment offices as well as local ecology-conscious organizations, and invite ecology experts as speakers. The project sponsors from the private sector will have an opportunity to put forward their eco-friendly products and services. (Major sponsors include Holcim, Smart, Unilever, and Maynilad.) SM will bring in Hypermart with organic products and Ace Hardware with eco-friendly tools.

Together with La Liga Policy Institute and other nongovernment organizations, EDNPI is also preparing to meet with the DENR to recommend points for its 2014 budget. The projects of EDNPI and other NGOs can be built in—meaning less funds to raise, more time for advocacies, easier procurement of government permits and licenses, better chances of success with DENR logistics support.

“These new brand of green NGOs are not adversarial to the DENR, but they also are not ‘yes men,’” Guevara says.

He has a dream for EDNPI’s Total Recovery Program: “If all four sectors work together, and if the government is convinced to stop dumping garbage in landfills, everything (solid waste) can be recovered so easily down to the barangay level.”

On the ban on plastic bags, Guevara observes that we seem to have the wrong approach of banning before putting alternatives in place. We can replace imported paper bags if we set up small Filipino firms everywhere to make them before we impose the ban—that is, if our  bayong  (native bag) is not sellable because it is expensive. We can catalyze green jobs in the process. Green economics must consider the livelihood factor for Filipinos.

“This way, we are more pro-consumer and pro-green-jobs all at once,” Guevara adds.

He points out that charcoal from trees should have been banned only after getting alternatives, such as the shift to green charcoal from agri-waste. “Production forests” of fast-growing  ipil-ipil  and  kakawati  can also be used for green charcoal expansion. Green regulations must not disrupt livelihood, but increase it.

The DENR’s National Green Plan can catalyze the setup of large green charcoal firms in strategic agri-bound places. It can appropriate the budget to let the private sector, NGOs and people’s organizations, run these. Church organizations can also pitch in, making the collaboration of all four sectors complete.

Coal from agri-waste is a form of renewable energy that will save our forests. There is a better way. And that way is the synergy of the four sectors.

Bernie Lopez is a freelance journalist, radio host, and producer of TV documentaries specializing in environmental issues. E-mail: eastwindreplyctr@gmail.com

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Tags: Bernie Lopez , Commentary , DENR , Earth Network Philippines Inc. , environment , opinion

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