25 July 2016

Environmental Watchdog Welcomes Presidential Order Upholding Public Access to Information



http://indianexpress.com/article/cities/mumbai/your-right-to-know-selection-process-for-states-info-commissioners-raises-questions/

A non-government watch group on chemicals and wastes has joined the chorus lauding President Rodrigo Roa Duterte for signing last Saturday his “Freedom of Information” (FOI) executive order.

“While it is no substitute to an all-encompassing FOI law that would apply to all branches and levels of the government, Duterte’s order is surely a huge boost to building a more transparent, accountable and responsive government that our people want,” said Noli Abinales, President, EcoWaste Coalition.

“The public will now have guaranteed access to a wide range of information pertaining to official acts, transactions or decisions by offices under the executive branch,” he emphasized.

Under the said order, information refers to “any records, documents, papers, reports, letters, contracts, minutes and transcripts of official meetings, map, books, photos, data, research materials, films, sound and video recording (magnetic or other tapes), electronic data computer store data or similar data or materials recorded stored or archived.”

“We trust that Congress will take its cue from the president and pass an all-inclusive FOI law within a short period of time,” he said.

“We see the FOI law not only as an anti-corruption tool,  but as an indispensable instrument that can contribute to the attainment of the people’s right to basic services, healthy environment and socially-just development,” he added.

“We likewise hope that Congress will enact other ‘right to know’ laws such as a national Pollutant Release and Transfer Register (PRTR) legislation that will provide public access to a database of hazardous chemicals and pollutants discharged to air, water and soil and transferred off-site for treatment or disposal by business or industrial facilities,” he said.

As the inventory of exceptions has yet to be drawn up by the Department of Justice and the Office of the Solicitor General, the EcoWaste Coalition expressed its hope that the exceptions would be few and would not be used to inhibit public disclosure by government agencies and officials.

“Specifically, information that is relevant to the health and safety of the people and the ecosystems should be made readily available and not treated as confidential,” he said.

“We also hope that the implementing details to be prepared by government offices under the executive branch will be procedurally simple and rapid to entice public participation,” he further said.

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