Loren pushes ecology as school subject

PHILIPPINE NEWS SERVICE — THE Senate has laid the groundwork for the integration of environmental studies into the school curriculum after it passed on third and final reading the proposed Environmental Awareness and Education Act.

Senate Bill 1699, authored by Sen.Loren Legarda, aims to heighten youth awareness of the urgency of environmental conservation.

“This is the only way for us to achieve sustainable development, considering the limits of our natural environment,” Legarda stressed.

Under SB 1699, “the state of the Philippine and global environment, the threats of degradation and its impact on human well-being, and the value of natural resources, conservation and protection” will be included in all school learning programs.

Legarda put together other related bills to finally create the proposed Environmental Awareness and Education Act which were co-authored by Senate President Manuel Villar Jr., Senate Pro Tempore Jinggoy Estrada and Sen.Pia Cayetano.

Four Senate committees ?” on environment and natural resources; on education, arts and culture; on finance; and on civil service and government reorganization ?” jointly endorsed the bill.

Legarda expressed confidence that the bill, once enacted, would go a long way in building up youth and public vigilance, and encourage purposeful action to guard against environmental threats and abuses.

The Senate approval of the bill came not long after McCann Worldgroup Philippines bared the results of a new study showing that 50 to 57 percent of all urban Filipinos now consider “pollution in the air and water” as their biggest worry and concern.

The study was based on a comprehensive survey that tracked 2,000 urban Filipinos aged 12 to 60, and analyzed their lifestyle, school/work ethic, consumer behavior, moral standards and perception of society.

Next to air and water contamination, the study revealed that “illegal drugs” and “being a crime victim” were the two biggest worries and concerns of urban Filipinos.

Between 42 to 44 percent of total respondents considered “illegal drugs” as their most important concern, while between 36 to 37 percent regarded “being a crime victim” as their biggest fear.

As proposed by the Senate-approved bill, four agencies would oversee the inclusion of environmental studies in all primary, secondary and tertiary public and private schools, including non-formal, indigenous and out-of-school programs.

They are the Department of Education, Commission on Higher Education, Technical Education and Skills Development Authority and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

Additionally, CHED and TESDA would include “environmental education and activities” in the National Service Training Program that replaced the Reserve Officers’ Training Course.

The Department of Science and Technology, for its part, would create programs meant to ensure that all studies receive adequate, science-based information on new environment- friendly solutions, devices, equipment and facilities.

Also under the bill, the DepEd, CHED, TESDA, DENR and DOST, in consultation with experts, would combine to carry out a comprehensive public information- education program on environmental safekeeping.

To give more meaning to the program, January of every year would be declared as Environmental Awareness Month.

Meanwhile, the DENR would periodically update all agencies on such matters as identifying priority environmental issues for national action, and providing strategic advice on possible new education activities.

Legarda chaired the Senate environment and natural resources committee and authored the Solid Waste Management Act and the Clean Air Act in the 12 th Congress. She also founded Luntiang Pilipinas, the nationwide tree-growing program that received the United Nations Environment Program Award in 2001.