A provincial legislator is suggesting that certain provisions of the Strategic Environmental Plan (SEP) for Palawan, or Republic Act 7611, be amended.
First District Board Member Winston Arzaga said that while the SEP, which turned 31 last June 19, may have been successfully implemented since it was signed into law, it needs to be updated as some provisions are no longer applicable, and the law itself needs to be strengthened.
He said the law, which was enacted riding the popularity of the late Speaker Ramon Mitra, who was the primary author, without whom, he said the law would not have been approved.
“I think it’s about time that Congress should seriously amend certain provisions of the SEP law,” Arzaga said.
“If there are infirmities in the law, I think the subsequent [lawmakers] should have done something to strengthen it. Because as it is now, the law itself is I would say constrained by several structural limitations,” he added.
He also said the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development (PCSD), which is the primary agency created to implement the law, along with its staff, needs to be strengthened and given more power.
Currently, it functions as “merely a coordinating agency” for other government agencies in terms of sustainable development.
Arzaga emphasized the importance of updating and improving the SEP for Palawan, considering the changing environmental landscape and the need for stronger measures to protect and preserve the province’s natural resources.
He believes that by amending certain provisions and empowering the PCSD, the law can better address the current environmental challenges and ensure a sustainable future for Palawan.
“There is a need to put more teeth to the law. It has to be an agency which could enforce its mandate. That is the flaw in the law which was not considered,” Arzaga explained, noting that by merely being a coordinating agency, however food the policies it creates will be nothing unless it calls on other agencies of the government.
“So I think that should be seriously considered and the present leadership of PCSD should work for it. Otherwise, PCSDS will just remain on paper by then,” he said.
Furthermore, Arzaga stated that the PCSD needs to once again seek funds from other countries to enhance the implementation of its programs and projects related to sustainable environmental initiatives.
He recalled his tenure as the PCSDS executive director and highlighted that the days of abundant funds from the European Union (EU) and Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) are now gone.
“During my stay there, we were implementing an EU project that was P700 million grant and another P400 million from JICA. I do not know if there is funding source were ever repeated by the succeeding administrations,” he noted.
“What I’m saying is, it has to be serious. It has to look for funds not coming from the GAA (General Appropriations Act). They have to source it outside of the government. Otherwise, they will work under a severe limitations budgetary constraints,” he said.
He also said the PCSDS needs to draw the line between the council and the Department of Environment and Natural Reaources regarding policy implementation.
“PCSDS really has to assert its identity especially here in the province because many people cannot really place where PCSD ends and where DENR begins. It’s about time that the agency should really work for it,” he said.