High-powered eco advocatesBy the staff
Philippine Daily Inquirer
The business sector is, apparently, sick and tired of being made the de facto whipping boy of both authentic and pseudo-activists whenever environmental issues crop up in the national debate sphere.
Because of this, some policy experts from the academe, business and government have moved to the forefront of an advocacy campaign for development programs that will help protect the environment while simultaneously giving industries a chance to develop the country.
Called the Philippine Business for Environmental Stewardship (PBEST), its leaders aim to pursue their advocacy by monitoring the implementation of existing environmental policies and regulations, along with the compliance of regulated industries with these rules. (To help boost its credibility, the group vows to help expose and prosecute offenders, it says.)
PBEST’s stable of industry experts were schooled by the country’s top universities like the University of the Philippines, De La Salle University and the Ateneo de Manila University, and their main thrust is to promote “eco-friendly” corporate social responsibility initiatives.
The group’s members also want the public to start viewing big business in a different light when it comes to environmental issues, especially since large corporations have, in the past, allowed the environmentalists to take control of the national debate.
“We are committed to actively promoting sound developmental policies and advocating right governance that will ensure responsible stewardship of the environment as a requisite in the operations of all Philippine industries,” said PBEST lead convenor Victor Andres Manhit.
Manhit is the former head of the DLSU political science department and a fellow at the Foundation for Economic Freedom. He has served as undersecretary at the Department of Education and deputy secretary at the Philippine Senate.
Other PBEST convenors are Carlos Primo David, a faculty member at the UP National Institute of Geological Sciences who obtained his Ph.D. in Environmental Science and Geology at Stanford University; and Lysander Castillo, a legal consultant at the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) who had served as lawyer for Upholding Life and Nature Inc. (Ulan) after finishing his law degree at ADMU.
“Our attitude about the environment is more developmental and not hardline,” David said. “There is no one solution or approach to the whole country as every location has different physical, geological, socio-cultural and even political situation.”
Unlike the normal shrill debate the public has become accustomed to, PBEST “aims to actively participate in intelligent, facts-based and scientific discussions that will result in good policy reforms meant to encourage responsible stewardship of the environment.”
Incidentally, Manhit also heads a low-profile but high-powered group called Stratbase Research Institute, which described itself as “one of the country’s leading think-tanks doing consulting work for both local and foreign clients.”
If that doesn’t ring a bell, consider this: Stratbase used to be headed by a certain Albert del Rosario before this low-key professional was tapped by President Aquino to become the country’s present secretary of foreign affairs.
The think tank is now chaired by Ambassador Jose Ibazeta and includes board members Antonio “Tony Boy” Cojuangco, Ambassador Antonio Basilio and banker Octavio “OV” Espiritu, among others.
One of Stratbase’s biggest clients is the PLDT group and its allied companies, which are involved in everything from mining to telecommunications to infrastructure. Daxim L. Lucas
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