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The Philippine Agenda 21

Note: The Philippine Agenda 21 provides the policy framework of the country’s strategy for sustainable
The Philippine Agenda 21 provides the policy framework of the country’s
strategy for sustainable development. Among the significant features are:
the realization that Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is not an accurate
measure of social well-being,
the realization of the continuing deterioration of the natural and social
a vision of “appropriate (not maximum) productivity” within the limits of the
natural environment’s carrying capacity,
redefining development as that which draws
out the full human potential,
adoption of a policy mix of market-based
instruments and command-and-control
measures as techniques to induce changes in
production and consumption patterns, and
adoption of social marketing approaches in
the effort to inform, educate, and
communicate the imperative of sustainable
development to the public at large to effect a
reorientation of fundamental societal values.
Executive Summary 1
Philippine Agenda 21 (PA 21) is part of the
country’s response to fulfill its commitments in the
historic Earth Summit in 1992 where government
and key sectors of society agreed to implement an
action agenda for sustainable development, known
as the Agenda 21.
"Only when the last tree has been cut down,
Only when the last river has been poisoned,
Only when the last fish has been caught,
Philippine Agenda 21 seeks to answer four
Only then will you find that money cannot be eaten." -
-Cree Indian Prophecy

• Where are we now?

• What is sustainable development?

• Where do we want to go?

• How do we get there?

development? • Where do we want to go? • How do we get there? 1 As

1 As amended by Sec. 2, R.A. No. 7718, 5 May 1994.

In answer to these questions, the major stakeholders involved in the formulation of the Philippine Agenda 21 found it necessary to seek common ground. The Principles of Unity, forming part of this document, embodies this common ground which unites the key actors in their pursuit of sustainable development.

Where Are We Now?

The Current and Emerging Landscape for Sustainable Development

Achieving sustainable development is a formidable task. Hence, the











understanding of the challenges, trends and opportunities that lie ahead.

Demographic Trends. The Philippines ranks as the ninth most populous country in Asia and fourteenth in the world. The country’s population growth, if unabated, will double to 128 million by 2025. Rapid population growth and imbalances in spatial distribution will continue if policy decision-making at all levels of governance does not recognize the relationships among population, resources, environment and development. The crucial role of the Filipino family in the dynamics of these relationships should also be considered.

Cultural Trends. The inherent strengths of the Filipino culture-for example, openness, freedom of expression, resilience, strong family orientation-continue to reinforce social cohesion within the Philippine society. These values are also embodied in the growing tradition of local activism. However, it has been observed that some erosion of Filipino cultural values has taken place as manifested by, among others, the commodification of indigenous culture, sexual tourism, consumerism, and increasing materialism.

Science and Technology Trends. There have been many positive developments in this area. These include the improved level of contributions of highly skilled Filipino scientists and the growing recognition of the value of indigenous science and technology and holistic science. On the other hand, the sector has its share of problems, such as the “brain drain” phenomenon, unfair monopoly of intellectual property rights, increasing use of technology as a simplistic response to complex problems, poor quality of science education due to inadequate funding and facilities, among others.

Economic Trends. Positive economic growth rates (as measured by GDP) have benefited certain sectors of Philippine society but do not reflect social decline and inequity nor the deterioration of the environment associated with economic growth. Despite continued economic growth, challenges remain, which include, among others, high level of public indebtedness, low level of savings, large deficits, remaining distortions in the price and incentive system, rampant casualization of labor, and indiscriminate land and ecosystem conversion.

Urbanization Trends. Difficulties in the implementation of agrarian and urban land reform and rural development programs have contributed to unplanned and uncontrolled urbanization. Philippine cities have deteriorated as human habitats, beset with intractable and often interrelated problems like pollution, water shortage, flooding, violence, and other social ills.

Human Development Trends. Existing measures of human development indicate some improvement over time. However, these improvements are uneven across geographical, income, gender, and ethnic groups. The development of human potential is being affected by continuing challenges such as rampant substance abuse, breakup of families, economic exploitations, and homelessness as evidenced by the growing number of street children.

Environment Trends. Even with accelerating economic growth, environmental quality is fast deteriorating as dramatized by the increased incidence of environmental disasters and problems associated with mine tailings, deforestation, pollution, salt water intrusion, and a host of other destructive activities. The regenerative capacities of fragmented areas in the biogeographic zones that nurture flora, fauna, and natural resources are severely threatened. While advances have been made in the area of biodiversity conservation alongside the growing awareness of the role of indigenous peoples in maintaining the integrity of ecosystems, the Environmental Impact Assessment system continues to be plagued with various enforcement and compliance problems.

Institutional Trends. The Philippines has strong institutional building blocks for sustainable development, including a strong civil society, socially and environmentally conscious business groups, community empowerment initiatives, devolution, and decentralization. However, these are plagued by ineffective mechanisms for enforcement and implementation, information inadequacies, and continuing systemic graft and corruption.

Political Trends. The current wave of globalization is increasingly posing some threat to the country’s national sovereignty. Domestically, the rich continue to dominate political processes as evidenced by deep-seated iniquitous structures and processes. The challenge continues for meaningful electoral reforms. Meanwhile, the Local Government Code has reinforced the role of LGUs in development administration. Civil society, as a countervailing force, has been engaging government at all levels.

What Is Sustainable Development?

A Conceptual Framework for Sustainable Development

The World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED), in its report “Our Common Future” published in 1987, defines sustainable development

as “meeting the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability

of the future generations to meet their own needs.”

While sustainable development derives its meaning from the global

discourse, its application must be rooted in the context of national realities and aspirations. Philippine Agenda 21’s concept of development is grounded on both an image and a shared vision of the Filipino society. It recognizes the key actors

in sustainable development as the government, business, and civil society and the

functional differentiation of modern society into three realms-economy (where the key actor is business), polity (where the key actor is government), and culture (where the key actor is civil society). The three realms are interacting, dynamic, and complementary components of an integral whole.

Thus, the essence of sustainable development is in the harmonious integration of a sound and viable economy, responsible governance, social cohesion/harmony, and ecological integrity to ensure that development is a life- enhancing process. The ultimate aim of development is human development now and through future generations.

Elements of a Shared Vision

Where Do We Want to Go?

Philippine Agenda 21 envisions a better quality of life for all through the development of a just, moral, creative, spiritual, economically vibrant, caring, diverse, yet cohesive society characterized by appropriate productivity, participatory and democratic processes, and living in harmony within the limits of the carrying capacity of nature and the integrity of creation.

In concretizing the vision, Philippine Agenda 21 describes path of images for individuals, families, households, and communities and for each ecosystem and across ecosystems in consideration of the interaction of the various lifescapes and landscapes found therein.

The Philippine Agenda 21 adheres to the following principles of sustainable development:

• Primacy of Developing Human Potential

• Holistic Science and Appropriate Technology

• Cultural, Moral, and Spiritual Sensitivity

• Self-determination

• National Sovereignty

• Gender Sensitivity

• Peace, Order, and National Unity

• Social Justice, Inter and Intra-Generational and Spatial Equity

• Participatory Democracy

• Institutional Viability

• Viable, Sound, and Broadbased Economic Development

• Sustainable Population

• Ecological Soundness

• Biogeographical Equity and Community-Based Resource Management

• Global Cooperation

How Do We Get There?

Operational Framework and Action Agenda

The operational framework of Philippine Agenda 21 consists of a multilevel guide for decision-making consisting of sustainable development criteria, parameters and descriptors. The principles of sustainable development embodied in the vision serve as the criteria which help define the viability of development interventions. The parameters are basic policies from which the key ingredients of a sustainable development strategy are developed. Sustainable development descriptors translate the parameters into specific action strategies.

Operationally, sustainable development is development that draws out the full human potential across ages and generations. It is, at the same time, ecologically friendly, economically sound, politically empowering, socially just, spiritually liberating, gender sensitive, based on holistic science, technologically appropriate, builds upon Filipino values, history, culture and excellence, and rests upon strong institutional foundations.

Philippine Agenda 21 provides a comprehensive set of economic, political, cultural, scientific and technological, ecological, social, and institutional parameters that flow out of the principles of sustainable development. Development is sustainable if it is fully guided by these parameters.

Philippine Agenda 21 advocates a fundamental shift in development thinking and approach. It departs from traditional conceptual frameworks that emphasize sector-based and macro-concerns. Philippine Agenda 21 promotes harmony and achieves sustainability by emphasizing:

• A scale of intervention that is primarily area-based. The national and global policy environment builds upon and supports area-based initiatives.

• Integrated island development approaches where applicable. This recognizes the archipelagic character of the Philippines which includes many small island provinces.

• People and the integrity of nature at the center of development initiatives.

of nature at the center of development initiatives. (Siargao reefs) "For a successful technology, reality

(Siargao reefs) "For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, for Nature cannot be fooled." --Richard Feynman, US educator and physicist


strengthening of roles, relationships,

and interactions between

stakeholders in government, civil


sectors have an important role to play in achieving equity and in managing the ecosystems that sustain life.

society, labor, and business.



The action agenda of the Philippine Agenda 21 elaborates the

mix of strategies that integrate the

SD parameters in the country’s overall development strategy. In formulating the action agenda, PA 21 has been guided by the key

concepts of integration, multi-stake holdership, and consensus building

and operationalization.

PA 21 does not duplicate but builds on existing and ongoing initiatives related to sustainable development. Hence, sustainable development in the Philippines is the accumulation of conceptual and operational breakthroughs generated by the Philippine Strategy for Sustainable Development, Social Reform Agenda, and Human and Ecological Security, among others. Sustainable development is also a product of the process itself, of engaging various stakeholders and of working in global, national and local arenas.

PA 21 is a document owned by various stakeholders in government and civil society. Hence, the action agenda brings out the important roles of major groups and other stakeholders in the sustainable development process.

PA 21 must be identified with doing. This implies concrete policy statements as well as appropriate implementation strategies on the critical issues that will affect sustainable development in the Philippines in the next thirty (30) years, including financing and localization mechanisms.

The journey towards sustainable development involves both a transition and a paradigm shift. PA 21, therefore, adopts a two-pronged strategy in defining and mapping out the action agenda:

• Creating the enabling conditions which would assist various stakeholders to manage the transition and at the same time build their capacities towards sustainable development; and

• Direct and proactive efforts at conserving, managing, protecting, and rehabilitating ecosystems through an approach that harmonizes economic, ecological, and social goals.

Managing the transition to sustainable development calls for interventions in the following areas:

• Integrating sustainable development in governance

• Providing enabling economic policies

• Investing in human and social capital

• Mapping out a legislative agenda

• Addressing critical and strategic concerns, to include population management, human health, food security, human settlements, and land use

These interventions define PA 21’s action agenda across ecosystems. The action agenda at the level of ecosystems consists of strategic and catalytic interventions covering the following ecosystems and critical resources:


Critical Resources

• Forest/upland ecosystem


• Coastal and marine ecosystem


• Urban ecosystem

• Freshwater ecosystem

• Lowland/agricultural ecosystem

Challenge Ahead: Implementing Philippine Agenda 21

The implementation of Philippine Agenda 21 must be anchored on the basic principle of collective choices and responsibility. Forging new partnerships and finding areas of common ground for collaborative action are central to the process of implementation as well as building and strengthening the roles and capacities of major groups and stakeholders; a consolidated and well-coordinated effort at information, education and communication advocacy; localization; generating financing means and strategies; and monitoring and assessment.

Strengthening the Role of Major Groups

The identification of key players and how they interact in the whole process provide a basis for deepening the analysis and treatment of the ecosystem, and also for defining the varying roles that various stakeholders are expected to play for achieving sustainable development.

There are two major categories of stakeholders: basic sectors and intermediaries. Basic sectors comprise the farmers and landless rural workers, fisherfolk, indigenous peoples, urban poor, and other disadvantaged groups such as workers in the informal sector, children and youth, persons with disabilities, elderly, disaster victims and overseas contract workers. Intermediaries are composed of formal institutions that include the national and local government units, business and private sectors, non-government organizations, church-based organizations, civic groups and professional associations, mass media, and the international community.

The key roles of the major stakeholders are defined according to sectoral needs, motivation or interest and perspectives. Intermediaries can serve as any of the following:

a. brokers of information and appropriate technologies;

b. mobilizers of resources,

c. networkers to strengthen institutional linkages and trainers, and

d. product enhancers.

Basic sectors, on the other hand, can serve as advocates of specific issues and concerns, organizers and mobilizers of community resources, culture bearers, innovators of indigenous approaches and systems, managers and controllers of community resources.

There are common grounds within which these key actors can undertake collaborative actions and interventions.


The process of localizing Philippine Agenda 21 is a vital element in mainstreaming the action agenda at the local level. In principle, localization shall seek to emulate the following key concepts: multistake holdership and consensus building, integration and operationalization while respecting the need to preserve the peculiarities inherent in each locality.

The process of localization needs a structure that will ensure coordination and cooperation among the various actors. The structure to be eventually adopted shall be left to the discretion of the local people. Two options, though, can be

identified: tapping existing structures such as the Regional Development Council

or creating a separate structure which is a mirror image of the PCSD.

Financing Means and Strategies

The adoption of a mixture of market-based instruments and command-and- control measures is expected to set into motion financial flows that would help achieve the goals of PA 21. The strategy aims to help induce changes in production and consumption patterns in favor of the sustainable management of the country’s resources.

Financing PA 21 will have to rely heavily on the economic sector’s ability and willingness to incorporate sustainable development principles in the design of their production systems. Market-based instruments working in tandem with the application of beneficial and realistic environmental standards through credible enforcement of regulations and sanctions could encourage companies to invest in abatement equipment.

Companies that support philanthropic activities can also be tapped by PA

21 to channel an increasing share for sustainable development initiatives under

an environment fund. Pollution charges and other forms of penalties and fines can be collected at rates that will provide an incentive for environmental protection. PA

21 may also be considered for inclusion in the Investment Priorities Plan to make

environmental investments eligible for fiscal incentives.

Proponents of public and private investment ventures are primarily responsible for making the needed investments for environmental rehabilitation and/or mitigation in compliance with environmental standards. Incorporating such investments in public sector projects can be ensured through government’s appraisal procedures.

Information, Education, and Communication Plan (IEC Plan)

The imperatives of sustainable development necessitate a reorientation in

the fundamental values of society. Hence, the formulation and implementation of

a comprehensive information, education, and communication advocacy plan is

part of the efforts to mainstream the principles of PA 21 in the various efforts of all


The IEC Plan for PA 21 would involve a mix of communication strategies such as social mobilization, advocacy, social marketing, networking, and visioning. The following are some of the strategic messages which shall form the basis of the over-all strategy:


Sustainable development is a matter of survival.

2. The only true development is sustainable development.

3. Avoiding pollution is not necessarily avoiding profit.

4. Pollution does not pay; managing pollution pays.

5. Environmental protection is a corporate responsibility.

6. Sustainable development begins and ends with you.

Monitoring and Assessment

To effectively assess the implementation of Philippine Agenda 21, a comprehensive monitoring, evaluation, and reporting system should be

established to guide all stakeholders to meaningfully participate in the process of operationalizing sustainable development. Such a system will also help institute broad-based accountabilities and responsibility for sustainable development among members of society. This system may include the following elements:

a. a system to coordinate and evaluate the extent to which the Philippine Agenda 21 has been adopted and implemented by all stakeholders;

b. a system to coordinate, support, and enhance existing national and local multisectoral as well as sectoral monitoring, evaluation and information exchange on the implementation of initiatives related to Philippine Agenda 21; and (c) a system for reporting, giving feedback, and utilizing the monitoring and evaluation results on Philippine Agenda 21 for international, national, and local stakeholder communities.

Medium Term Development Plan of the Philippines (2004-2010)

The following is an excerpt from the 2004-2010 Medium Term Philippine Development Plan (MTPDP) adopted by the Arroyo Government.

CHAPTER 3 Environment and Natural Resources

The 2004-2010 Medium Term Philippine Development Plan has devoted an entire chapter (Chapter 3) on the Philippine Environment and Natural

Resources. It describes the rich bounty of our country being blessed with so much natural resources yet also becoming vulnerable to both man-made and natural factors. This covers the forest ecosystem and its resources, the alienable and disposable land resources, biodiversity, coastal and marine ecosystem. It also discussed the abundant minerals that can be found in our country yet still not maximized due to obstacles such as declining market price and policy inconsistencies. Likewise, the regressing quality of our physical environment was


"The fundamental principles of ecology govern our lives wherever we live, and lost." - -Karin

"The fundamental principles of ecology govern our lives

wherever we live, and

lost." --Karin Sheldon, environmental lawyer [1973]

we must wake up to this fact or be

The government for its part prescribed five major goals that could promote sustainable resource management and alleviate poverty. These are accompanied by specific strategies and action plans that could help address the context described. The five main thrusts for the Philippine environment and natural resources are as follows:

Thrust No. 1: Sustainable and more productive utilization of natural resources to promote investments and entrepreneurship

Thrust No. 2: Promote responsible mining that adheres to the principles of sustainable development: economic growth, environmental protection and social equity. Responsible mining reduces poverty and benefits local and indigenous communities

Thrust No. 3: Focus and strengthen the protection of vulnerable and ecologically fragile areas, especially watersheds and areas where biodiversity is highly threatened.

Thrust No. 4: Create healthier environment for the population

Thrust No. 5:

Mitigate the occurrence of natural disasters to prevent the loss of lives and properties


Taking a closer look at the 2004-2010 MTPDP, one will readily see that the MTDP’s plan for environment and natural resources development still adopts the extractive mode of economic development, and then calls it ‘environmental protection’ and ‘sustainable development’. Very good!