Press Release on Development network pushes for ‘Rights of Nature’ Bill

RON advocates and RON champion Rep. Kit Belmonte of the 6th District of Quezon City. Belmonte files HB 5603 or the “Rights of Nature Act”. Photo from PMPI.

Quezon City, Philippines – A social development and advocacy network, Philipiines Misereor Partnership Inc. (PMPI) and NASSA/Caritas Philippines, the social arm of Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, both pushing for ‘Rights of Nature bill’ intended to recognize nature to have its own legal rights just like humans, lobbied  to the office of Quezon City 6th District Rep. Kit Belmonte, have been filed today at the House of Representatives.

House Bill No. 5603 or the “Rights of Nature Act” was the second version of RON bill to be filed. Last October 2, Senator Risa Hontiveros filed her own version in the Senate of the Philippines.

In the explanatory note of HB 5603, it highlighted the need for an urgent action to protect natural ecosystems.

“Unless the State takes urgent action to protect its natural ecosystem, environmental degradation will continue to threaten the well-being and safety of future generations. Nature has borne the brunt of this systematic abuse for a long time, without any legal standing to contest it,” stated from the bill’s explanatory note”.

Both PMPI and NASSA/Caritas Philippines have been spearheading the Rights of Nature campaign in the Philippines since 2018.

Last July of this year, they recently formed the network called the ‘Rights of Nature PH’ to help them push a legal framework that will recognize ecosystems as rights bearing entity that can file a case in court to protect itself against violators. Such cases will be filed via a representative or guardian who maybe an advocate or the most affected communities.

For PMPI National Coordinator Yolanda Esguerra, it was indeed another historic moment for RON advocates.

“We are happy and amazed that in a span of almost two months both our houses of the Philippine Congress filed their own versions of this bill,” Esguerra said.

“And although we know that this is just the start of a long, challenging battle of lobbying and getting support from other lawmakers, we will see to it the bills will have its chance to be reviewed by the  appropriate committees and to make it to the plenary for the lawmakers’ scrutiny,” Esguerra added.

The concept of Rights of Nature is not new according to Fr. Edwin Gariguez, Executive Secretary of NASSA/Caritas Philippines.

“Other countries in Latin America has Rights of Nature laws, in 2008 Ecuador was the first country to recognize rights of nature in its constitution same thing with the government of Bolivia as they’ve passed the Law of the Rights of Mother Earth in 2010,” Fr. Edwin Gariguez said.

“Since time immemorial, our indigenous peoples around the world, have practices, traditions and culture that are essentially about rights of nature. They believe that they are part of nature itself and that their life is connected to nature,” Fr. Gariguez added.

According to Ms. Esguerra, if the RON bill is passed, it will provide another layer of protection to our ailing environment and will not overlap with existing environmental laws. But she also emphasized that the Rights of Nature campaign does not only limit itself to passage of bills and ordinances.

“It will also call for a radical shift in the way we perceive and treat nature. It will push for a holistic and sustainable development paradigm, for eco-governance and simple and sufficient lifestyle. Thus we will engage government agencies to effect policy changes. The corporations to change their greedy behavior and the people, to help them become more caring and respectful to nature,” Esguerra stressed.