Early today, I attended the 6th Annual Clean Air Forum, jointly organized by NGOs and a couple of government agencies. It banners partnership, which is very fitting, considering that working for clean air isn’t really the responsibility of the government alone as most might be thinking.
The theme is so simple it needs no explanation. Partnership is key — commitment must be made, trust is essential.
I love how, in today’s forum, each partner recognized that there is no monopoly as far as the environment is concerned. Gone are the days when a sector blames another, or is too defensive when criticisms are thrown their way. Perhaps, the catastrophes that have swept the country and killed too many of our men during the last few years have changed our people’s mindsets and turned us into one — despite our many differences.
To quote Dr. Eva Ocfemia, Assistant Director of the Environmental Management Bureau, “we might be disagreeing but we all agree that we need to do something for the environment”.
Members of the Partnership for Clean Air (PCA) even lauds the government’s openness to welcome criticisms, especially when Undersecretary Atty. Analiza Teh of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) challenged everyone present in the forum to assess them in their implementation of the Philippine Clean Air Act (CAA) and point out policy gaps and where the DENR might have been missing in terms of enforcement — whether it’s the employees, the policies in place, or the lack of political will.
Anyway, of all the talks I heard from the speakers and the participants, I particularly support the “bus” proposal of Mr. John Boyd, a consultant, originally from California, who has chosen to stay and has been living in the Philippines for the past 20 years. He calls for the improvement of the operation of buses in the country, stressing that doing so is the only way to stop people from taking their cars. He further shared that buses here are not a priority, which should be the contrary given the fact that buses really carry more people. A commuter himself, he said that “buses” ought to be treated with great respect, with the scheduling and number of buses a must to improve. I totally, absolutely, completely, super duper agree.
There will be another session tomorrow so I’m looking forward to hearing and learning more about sector initiatives for cleaner air.
I’d like to end this post with a quote from Mr. Rene Pineda, PCA President. At the forum, he said, “pollution is a multi-faceted occurrence. It is difficult to strike a balance, and this is what partnership is all about. We are partners in doing work in order to achieve an equilibrium, quality environment.”
Let’s all work together for cleaner, better air.