18 August 2012

Green Groups Join the Fray, Press Congress to Pass FOI Bill


Environmental groups have joined the fray to have the Freedom of Information (FOI) bill enacted by the 15th Congress.

The groups are one with FOI advocates, including enlightened legislators, academicians, media practitioners and the civil society, in asking Congress not to waste the historic chance of passing a law “that could help end the culture of government secrecy and corruption.”

“There are many reasons why the FOI should be enacted. Chief among them is the belief that with greater transparency, there would be less corruption in the government. Our view is that corruption translates to more environmental pollution,” said Von Hernandez, President, EcoWaste Coalition.

“In the spirit of fostering transparency and greater public participation, we support the swift passage of this measure,” he said.

“We wish however that the public right to know provisions of the bill also specifically extend to community disclosure requirements involving dangerous and toxic chemicals and materials used or disposed of by industries and other pollution sources,” he clarified.

“Information that may impinge on public health and the environment should not be kept secret and regarded as confidential,” he pointed out.

For her part, Atty. Gloria Estenzo-Ramos, Coordinator of the Philippine Earth Justice Center (PEJC), said that “if enacted, the FOI bill will make it easy for impacted communities and their allies to get hold of and scrutinize vital documents such as waste contracts entered into by local and national authorities, including the minutes and transcripts of relevant official meetings.”

“Public access to procurement and service contracts will deter crooked politicos, bureaucrats and influence peddlers from engaging in fraudulent transactions to the disadvantage of the people and the environment,” she added.

Aside from the EcoWaste Coalition and the PEJC, the passage of the FOI bill is supported by other green groups such as Ang NARS, Arugaan, Buklod Tao, Cavite Green Coalition, Citizens Organization Concerned with Advocating Philippine Environmental Sustainability, Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives, Greenpeace, Health Care Without Harm, Lingkod Tao Kalikasan, Krusada para sa Kalikasan, Miriam PEACE, Mother Earth Foundation, November 17 Movement, Philippine Network on Climate Change and Zero Waste Philippines, among others.

The FOI bill, if approved, will implement the constitutional right of the people to information on matters of public concern as well as the state policy of full public disclosure of all its transactions involving the public interest, the groups asserted.

Furthermore, the FOI bill, according to environmentalists, will help to "institutionalize public participation in the development and implementation of national and local integrated, comprehensive and ecological waste management programs" as required under R.A. 9003, the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act.

It will further "encourage the participation of an informed and active public in air and water quality planning and monitoring” as provided for in R.A. 8749, the Clean Air Act and R.A. 9275, the Clean Water Act.

The Clean Air Act specifically recognizes "the right of access to public records which a citizen may need to exercise his or her rights effectively under this Act."

-end-

References:

http://www.chanrobles.com/republicactno9003.htm {Article 1, Section 1, (i)}

http://www.chanrobles.com/philippinecleanairact.htm {Article 1, Section 3 (d); Section 4 (f)}

http://www.chanrobles.com/republicactno9275.htm {Article 1, Section 2 (h)}

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