THE PHILIPPINE STAR, JULY 28, 2009
For the first time, in any significant way, an electoral battle will be fought almost entirely on an ecological question.
That battle will be fought in the City of Manila where the sitting mayor, Alfredo Lim, supported an ordinance that opens the way for highly polluting industries to set up along the banks of the Pasig River. Manila City Ordinance 8187, passed earlier this year, reversed a prior ordinance that bans polluting industries on the river bank.
The overturned ordinance, enacted during the term as city mayor of Lito Atienza, was the basis for forcing the relocation of the oil depots owned by the three biggest oil players. After long litigation, the Supreme Court finally upheld the City of Manila’s position to regulate pollution and force the relocation of the oil depot at Pandacan.
Removing the oil depot from the banks of the Pasig has been the advocacy of Lito Atienza. Since it is now taken for granted that he will seek to return to as Mayor of Manila after a hiatus dictated by term limits, the controversial Lim-engineered Ordinance 8187 will almost certainly be the main point of contention.
In his advocacy to relocate the depot in order to safeguard the health of Manilans, Atienza enjoys the support of Manila archbishop Gaudencio Rosales. The senior clergyman had tried to apply his influence in dissuading Lim from supporting the controversial ordinance.
Lim had, in fact, promised to veto the ordinance when it came up to him. But in the end, the sitting mayor bowed to pressure from the oil giants and signed Ordinance 8187 — ostensibly because this was the will of the people.
Last week, in a speech before the Philippine Constitutional Association, Atienza indicated that Ordinance 8187 will be the issue on which the mayoral contest in Manila will turn. We all presume, of course, that despite his age Alfredo Lim will be the other major contender for the post.
In that speech, the present DENR Secretary charged that Ordinance 8187, by welcoming extremely hazardous industries to the banks of the Pasig, clearly violated Article 2, Sections 15 and 16 of the Constitution. Those sections mandate government to look after the collective health and well-being of its citizens as well as ensure a state of ecological balance. It is the duty of government to shelter the citizenry from a damaged environment.
The present and future generations of Filipinos, Atienza maintains, depend on prudence in managing the environment. It also depends on strict adherence to the new environmental ethics embodied in the modern laws of the land.
Atienza likewise charges that Mayor Lim’s behavior relating to the matter of the Pandacan oil depot reflects the destructive pattern of political accommodation. Not only does it put the city’s ecological future in peril, it also favors the biggest oil players to the disadvantage of the smaller industry players who observe environmental ethics by keeping their oil stocks away from densely populated communities.
From where Atienza stands, everything is wrong with Ordinance 8187. It is unconstitutional, illegal, immoral, unethical and even unwise as economic policy. By making Manila even less habitable than it already is, the Lim ordinance dooms the city’s economic future. Simply said, no city can be dirty and progressive at the same time.
The matter will be put at the feet of Manila’s voters in the next elections. Here we will see an electoral contest centered almost entirely on a policy issue.
The contest will be a measure of the political maturity the citizens of Manila are capable of.
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