Rule of law, not rule by one
Because of the complexity of the physical world, the sound management of the environment has always required a balancing act, the involvement and cooperation of people and a whole range of stakeholders. This means a brand of environmental governance that sees the forest in addition to the trees, passionate but not discriminatory.
Recent events proved that this is not the case with the Environment Secretary Gina Lopez. Her fixation on mining as the ultimate villain of mother nature convinces us that she could not distinguish between her personal advocacy and the demands of her office, thereby fostering more environmental harm than protection.
Secretary Lopez’s pronouncements clearly exhibit this bias; while her arbitrary orders to close down mines and cancel mining production sharing agreements (MPSAs) signal a breakdown in the rule of law. History is replete with examples of how this kind of leadership has inevitably failed. When leaders govern on a whim, strife and chaos arise. Environmental governance is no exception. The rule of law benefits not the private sector alone but all stakeholders. To begin with, laws are put in place to regulate and stabilize all aspects of social life.
The leadership of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources must thus be reminded that it is the rule of law that has allowed the protection of the environment for generations yet to be born. It is the rule of law that established environmentally critical areas and delineated ancestral domains. It is the rule of law that enables the environment secretary to apprehend or penalize those destroying the environment.
As Secretary Lopez lets personal advocacies trump the rule of law in her capacity as the government’s chief environmental manager, to judge her young tenure as a failed leadership is only accurate. After all, ours is a government of laws and not of men.
LYSANDER CASTILLO, Philippine Business for Environmental Stewardship, firstname.lastname@example.org
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