VII. Conclusions and recommendations
The Philippines has achieved much in terms of prioritizing the objectives of sustainable development in the national development agenda. While recognition of the importance of the environment and the ecological services it provides dates back to the 1970s, when the EIA system was instituted, PSSD was not launched until 1989 as the first official document on sustainable development. PSSD recognized that development efforts could actually lead to environmental degradation, since conflicts over the use of environmental, demographic, economic and natural resources often result from development-related activities.
Those early efforts were further pursued and the consequent issues given due importance when the Philippines participated in the UNCED summit in Rio in 1992. That participation led to the creation of PCSD, primarily to monitor the compliance of the country with Agenda 21. That also led to the creation and/or strengthening of a number of mechanisms where the integration of environmental considerations in policy decision-making could take place (e.g., the Investment Coordination Committee, the EIS system, the policy and planning formulation process which now involves multi-stakeholder consultations, etc.). Likewise, a number of measures, policy tools and instruments that would facilitate the integration of environmental concerns were also formulated, including the design of market-based instruments, the formulation of sustainable development indicators, and the use of new valuation methodologies for evaluating the benefits and costs of development projects. An environmental and natural resources accounting system is also being set up to ensure that the national indicators of economic growth take into consideration the environmental consequences of economic activities. The attention of the bodies concerned will then be drawn to the resulting policy implications of new estimates.
As a result of growing global concern for the environment, a variety of international and multilateral agreements have been forged. Since the Philippines has participated in a number of those agreements, it has meant ensuring compliance with the commitments made as signatory. However, those commitments often have specific implications for the domestic policy formulation process. Therefore, the domestic capacity for dealing with such implications as well as implementing the necessary follow-up actions needs to be strengthened.
The new paradigm on sustainable development calls for rethinking on how the development process is to be approached. That will require the development of capabilities at the technical and policy levels. Awareness among policy makers and practitioners needs to be raised to levels that would integrate environmental concerns into the decision-making process. Environment and natural resources should be viewed not only as a productive resource but even more so as a resource that provides ecological services. Policy makers and practitioners should be able to perceive the environmental consequences of specific economic activities, so that measures can be taken to avoid any resultant damage, which could prove irreparable. That requires the availability of adequate information and data for bringing about integration. Likewise, it is important to build technical capabilities for the design and use of appropriate policy instruments that facilitate integration.
Despite previous efforts at integration, the current state of policy-making in the Philippines leaves much to be desired in terms of incorporating environmental concerns into the decision-making process. Existing structures and mechanisms for integration are either not fully equipped in terms of capabilities and/or policy tools, or they lack the teeth and the mandate to implement their recommendations. In most cases, policy decisions go through a number of consultations in various bodies where the members do not necessarily have a full grasp nor even an appreciation of the environmental implications of specific policy actions. Moreover, those bodies also have priorities which, when taken into consideration, relegate any environmental issue to a lower level of priority, thus preventing such issues from being considered in the decision-making process.
In view of the bottlenecks described above, the following recommendations are proposed: