To popularize the sustainable development (SD) advocacy in the province, a Communication Planning Workshop for Palawan was conducted on January 26-27 at the Palawan Sustainable Development Training Institute (PSDTI) in Bgy Irawan, Puerto Princesa City.
As the R.A. 7611 or the Strategic Environmental Plan for Palawan Act puts it, sustainable development is “the improvement in the quality of life of the present and future generations through the complementation of development and environmental protection activities.”
Nelson P. Devanadera, Executive Director of the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development Staff (PCSDS), in his opening remarks, said the challenge that the stakeholders face in implementing and interpreting the SEP Act of 1992 is on “how to harmonize development and conservation.”
“We need to communicate everything to all stakeholders; if not, then the threats will be there,” Devanadera said before the 48 participants coming from different sectors, such as the local government units (LGUs), national government agencies (NGAs), non-government organizations (NGOs) and local news media.
Being the only province with such environmental framework plan in the Philippines simply speaks of Palawan’s uniqueness that needs to be protected from human-induced threats, says Devanadera.
However, he cautioned that as the province’s poverty incidence remains at 60%, it makes Palawan’s fragile environment even more susceptible to disturbance, if not total destruction.
“Our natural resources is the only source of livelihood for our people, so that means the pressure would always be on it,” he said, adding that the province has continued to reel in from biodiversity loss due to destructive human activities like wildlife poaching, illegal logging and slash-and-burn farming.
To destroy the environment and natural resources, Devanadera said, would be tantamount to halting progress in Palawan. “So development is always dependent on the natural resources,” he concluded.
To usher the people in translating environmental awareness to action, the SEP Law has provided a provision for the implementation of the Environmental Education and Extension (EEE) program as one of its support mechanism.
“It is along this line that the SEP Communication framework is anchored. It goes beyond just informing people about sustainable development, but it needs to get the audience to participate and become advocates of sustainable development,” said Alex Marcaida, former chief of ECAN Education and Extension Division.
Section 15 of the RA 7611 practically directs the formulation of a comprehensive environmental information drive program to prime-up awareness regarding PCSD policies, programs and projects on various environmental concerns intended to various audiences.
It also includes a guide designed towards increasing capability, such as capability building programs for partners and various stakeholders, and improving institutional partnerships, coupled with appropriate extension services to wean people away from destructive practices.
In line with this, the representatives of the participating agencies and organizations crafted their respective five-year communication plan where they systematically laid out information, education and communication (IEC) strategies to effectively impart the concept of Palawan’s SD to their target audience. Covering the period from years 2015 to 2020, the plan is designed to be implemented in three stages, accordingly: 1st wave (awareness stage), 2015-2016; 2nd wave (appreciation and start of action level), 2017-2018); and 3rd wave (action towards community leading advocacies), 2019-2020.
The workshop output, meanwhile, was compiled into one comprehensive SEP CommPlan, which will be up for the Council’s adoption.
UNIFYING SD’s DEFINITION
Marcaida said the two-day workshop, in cooperation with the Pilipinas Shell Foundation Inc, also aimed at creating a common definition of SD among stakeholders, so as to address the burning environmental issues hounding Palawan.
He took notice that while the 1991 Rio de Janeiro Summit provided a clear definition of SD that the SEP likewise adopted, its functional or operational definition on the ground has yet to be harmonized.
Thus, “there is still a great confusion and, maybe, debate on how to operationalize the definition in the context of resource uses,” he argued.
“We’re not saying that people doesn’t know what the definition [of SD] is, but it’s (comm plan workshop) really more of unifying, at the same time, synchronizing [their perceived definitions and comm plans] because we all know that everyone has roles,” said Marcaida, who now heads the PCSDS District Management Office North (PCSDS-DMO North).
Based on the 2014 PCSDS survey on Knowledge, Attitude, Skills and Practices (KASP) of stakeholders regarding SD, it appears that there remains a varying degree of people’s definition about the said concept, Marcaida observed.
For example, he mentioned, the NGOs, have taken the “extreme side of environmental protection over an unsure development, leaning too much on the precautionary principle in taking decisions.”
Business sector, on the other, is “belligerent.”
On the other hand, communities, who are directly using the resources, have their different view, which is still dictated by their needs and present condition.
While, politicians would think that SD is a critical decision of providing basic infrastructure services that can sustain the lives of their constituents. “But as time passes, development activities have become more impacting to the environment, [thus] threatening biodiversity,” he observed. “The move is more of tilting the decision towards economic gains rather than blending it with environmental protection.”
“Defining sustainable development operatively is, therefore, a necessity,” he stressed.