Church, green groups to press for 'rights of nature' law

Movement in the Philippines aims to renew calls for Christians to be 'stewards of the environment'
Church, green groups to press for 'rights of nature' law

Yolanda Esguerra, coordinator of the Philippine Misereor Partnership Inc., speaks during the 'rights of nature' conference in Manila on July 20. (Photo by Mark Saludes)

Church and pro-environment groups in the Philippines held a three-day conference to "strategize" a lobby campaign to pass a law to protect the "rights of nature."

The gathering of about 70 church and civil society leaders from July 20-22 reviewed the provisions of a draft bill they plan to submit to the country's legislators.

The bill aims to provide nature its "own legal rights" and be recognized as a "rights-bearing entity" like people and corporations.

Yolanda Esguerra, coordinator of the Philippine Misereor Partnership Inc. (PMPI), said the draft bill is a product of a series of dialogues and consultations with various sectors of society.

"This bill, if passed into law, will not only protect nature from destruction because of human greed but will also provide a safe environment to the inhabitants of Mother Earth," said Esguerra.

She said the proposed bill "will add another layer of protection" to the ecosystem that is being "abused and plundered."

Lawyer Mario Maderazo, PMPI counsel, said big corporations are expected to lobby against the passage of the bill because it will affect their business interests.

"There are groups who will definitely oppose this proposed bill, especially those who profit from mining, coal, logging, and other destructive industries," he said.

The meeting also saw the creation of a movement to promote the "Rights of Nature."

Father Edwin Gariguez, executive secretary of the social action arm of the Philippine bishops' conference, said the public has to be convinced about the proposed law.

The priest said the formation of a national movement for the rights of nature would have to start in schools, parishes, and local communities.

Father Juderick Calumpiano of Borongan Diocese in the central Philippines said the movement aims "to renew our mission as stewards of the environment."

Lea Guerrero, Greenpeace country director, called on the country's legislators on July 22 to adopt the bill that also aims to protect environmental activists from attacks.

The rights of nature made campaign strides when the Universal Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth was drafted during the Rights of Mother Earth Conference organized in Bolivia in 2010.

Ecuador was the first country to recognize the "rights of nature" in its constitution that was ratified by a referendum in September 2008.

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