Faith-based and environmental groups have welcomed the filing of a bill in the Philippine Senate seeking to provide nature with its “own legal rights.”
Senator Risa Hontiveros
submitted the proposed law as the Philippine Church marked its own observance of the annual Season of Creation.
”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,” said the senator.
The proposed bill stressed the need to give nature the highest level of protection amid the climate and biodiversity crises that are especially affecting poor communities.
”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,” read the bill.
Church and pro-environment groups that have been pressing for the passage of the bill described the filing of the proposed measure as “historic.”
Yolanda Esguerra, national coordinator of the Philippine Misereor Partnership
Inc. (PMPI), said the bill was a “major leap towards addressing the long-standing issue of environmental destruction.”
She said it represented “a strong attempt to mitigate the projected catastrophic impact of climate change” in the country.
Esguerra said that if the bill passed into law it could “radically alter the current environmentally destructive policies of our government in the field of economics, politics and culture.”
John Din, of the Global Catholic Climate Movement in the Philippines, said the legislation was “essential to recovering our true identity as an integral part of the natural world.”
Father Edwin Gariguez, executive secretary of the social action arm of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, said it was part of a wider, nationwide eco-convergence campaign.
The priest said the Church, with other pro-environment groups, would initiate a full-on campaign for ecological protection during the month of October.
”We have a series of coordinated events that aim to bring out concrete ecological actions that involve everyone, including communities, institutions and the government,” he said.
“We started it with the filing of the bill in the Senate and in the next few days, two lawmakers will help us champion the bill in the House [of Representatives].”
The priest said that apart from lobbying for the bill, the Rights of Nature Movement was organizing “regional formations” that would mobilize communities at a local level.
“We are urging our bishops to press their respective representatives in Congress to support the bill,” said Father Gariguez. “We are working closely with pro-environment groups and dioceses across the country.”
"Rights of nature" made a breakthrough when the Universal Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth was drafted during the Rights of Mother Earth Conference 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.