IT MAY only be a matter of time before the Philippine tarsier, now officially listed as one of the world’s most endangered species, ceases to exist.

Ten other animal species had their last hurrah last year, data from the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, the world’s main authority on species conservation, showed.

Despite the fact that plants and animals vanishing over time is part of the natural evolutionary process, humanity may also be a cause of extinction.

This was what a documentary sponsored by Discovery Channel showed last Jan. 21. “Racing Extinction,” directed by Oscar-winning director Louie Psihoyos, revealed the rapid rate of plant and animal extinction caused by man-made activities, which, if not resolved, could affect the entire world.

Prime for extinction

Reports from 1994 to 2013 showed that the Philippines consistently ranked high in environmental risk, with the country landing on the fifth spot in the long-term climate risk index of the Global Risk Index of 2015.

The Foundation for the Philippine Environment noted that deforestation is the leading cause of habitat destruction in the country. Irresponsible farming methods such as the kaingin had driven away many species from their natural habitats.

Topping these off are several factors such as exploitation and climate change—all man-made phenomena—that significantly contribute to loss of biodiversity in the 21st century.

Critically endangered species such as the Philippine Eagle, Tamaraw, Crocodile and Spotter Deer are just some of the animals that might be completely wiped out.

However, the Philippines also has its share of actions to promote environmental conservation.

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For instance, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has allocated P12.4 billion for 19 programs on climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction this year. The National Greening Program, a massive forest rehabilitation project, got the lion’s share of the DENR’s expenditures at P8 billion.

The Climate Change Commission was formed in 2012 to make a stand on international negotiations to reduce greenhouse emissions.

Environmental laws such as the Presidential Decree on the Philippine Environmental Impact Statement System, the Environmental Awareness and Education Act of 2008, and other laws on clean water, toxic substances, ecological solid waste management, and climate change also seek to minimize the catastrophic effects of environmental mismanagement.

However, the Haribon Foundation for the Conservation of Natural Resources, the country’s pioneer environmental group, said Philippine environmental conservation cannot rely on funding alone.

According to Laarni Jocson, communications and information officer of Haribon Foundation, many environmental laws in the Philippines will be useless unless there is effective implementation on the part of the government.

“Some of our politicians are complacent when implementing our laws. Other politicians are easily bribed by big companies, most of which abuse our environment,” she said in an interview.

Jocson explained that these companies, normally mining corporations, do not always get sanctioned despite their illegal activities.

For instance, while the Philippine Mining Act of 1995 states that only Filipino-owned corporations can engage in the mining business, it was reported last September that a Chinese businessman owned mining sites in Mindanao.

While the National Bureau of Investigation has already filed criminal charges against the businessman, progress is slow.

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“Our environmental laws should be revamped every 15 years,” Jocson suggested. “Unfortunately, these environmental laws are not on their priority list.”

Jocson said government support was crucial in providing alternative solutions as well as environmental conservation and protection, similar to how developed countries strictly implement their environmental laws.

“These countries see the big picture. They plan for long-term solutions instead of a ‘quick fix’ to their problems,” she added.

Ningas-kugon

Despite various environmental laws and programs, the Philippines still placed 66th among 180 countries in the Environmental Performance Index, which supplements the environmental targets of the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals by ranking countries based on their performance on high-priority environmental issues such as protection of human health and preservation of ecosystems.

According to Thomasian sociologist Josephine Placido, the Philippines lacks the three key points when it comes to environmental protection: political will, self-discipline and proper definition of human rights.

“Filipinos are well-informed and aware of these environmental issues but we are not consistent and persistent in participating in environmental campaigns,” she said in an interview.

Placido also said ningas-kugon was manifest among public officials, adding that the government should ‘not fear’ imposing strict rules and punishing those who disobey the law.

The sociology professor also emphasized that one must accept innovations in natural sciences and technology to better protect and conserve the environment.

“If we stick to our traditional ways, we cannot move forward. We must continue finding better ways of sustaining our environment,” she said.

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