Environment Secretary Roy A. Cimatu has called on Filipinos to unite and help the government in addressing the country’s most pressing environmental problems.

At the opening of the 3rd Philippine Environment Summit (PES) held in Cagayan de Oro City on Wednesday, February 27, Cimatu said there is no better time to achieve national unity than now given the unprecedented political will being exhibited by the Duterte administration in enforcing environmental laws.

Cimatu, in his keynote address delivered by DENR Undersecretary Juan Miguel Cuna, cited the highly touted rehabilitation of Boracay, which the government shut down for six months in 2018 due to pollution and overdevelopment. The closure proceeded despite strong opposition from those whom Cimatu described as “with vested interests.”

Had the present government’s political will been weaker, Cimatu said the shutdown of Boracay’s tourism industry would have become permanent, with environmental degradation becoming irreversible.

“This underscores the urgency of achieving unity, now that we have mustered the political will, as never before, to confront rather than evade the environmental problems that have haunted our country and people,” Cimatu stressed.

In calling for unity, Cimatu lamented that Filipinos “have not yet achieved that level of united consciousness needed to save our environment from the problems that humanity has caused.”

“Some simply don’t care. They dump their wastes anywhere convenient or tolerate others who do so. They waste water, mindless that many others lack access to water,” he said.

The DENR chief also took a swipe at those who oppose measures to enforce environmental laws and belittle government achievements in rehabilitating the damaged environment.

He pointed out that environmental problems “do not choose their victims” and “everyone is vulnerable regardless of political party, ideology, religion, gender, age, race, nationality, or ethnicity.”

“Hence, we should all join hands in facing these problems,” he added.

Organized by the DENR and Green Convergence Philippines, with support from Forest Foundation Philippines and Energy Development Corp., the PES is a biennial conference focusing on the themes of safe food, healthy environment and sustainable economy.

The summit provides a venue for innovative leaders from the government, civil society, business, academe and the religious sector to present programs and projects that promote sound environmental practices toward sustainable development.

Echoing the PES 2020 theme, Cimatu underscored the need for a paradigm shift to practices that maximize the use of resources and minimize wastage, as he acknowledged that the socio-economic systems and technologies that humanity has developed across ages had the downside of damaging the planet.

“Nature’s cyclical systems were disrupted and became linear; instead of matter being reused in cycles, it was conveniently but unsustainably thrown away as waste,” Cimatu noted. #