- A coalition in the Philippines is pushing for legislation of a “right of nature” bill, which would confer legal personhood on nature.
- The bill, should it pass into law, will create a paradigm shift in existing human-centered environmental laws and make individuals, governments and corporations more responsible and accountable when dealing with nature.
- The bill, currently in the drafting, adequately represents the connectedness between indigenous peoples and their ancestral domains, an indigenous women’s rights activist says.
- The bill is part of a growing movement around the world to recognize ecosystems and species as legal entities, as a way of boosting their protection amid intensifying threats.
MANILA — Who speaks up in court for a dolphin or a turtle when its habitat gets polluted? Does an animal even have the right to legal redress in such a case?
Those are the questions underlying a push by environmental activists and lawyers in the Philippines to expand legal protection for the environment, strengthen indigenous people’s rights over ancestral domain lands, and hold individuals, government and corporations accountable for environmental abuses and lapses.
Initiated by the Philippine-Misereor Partnership Inc. (PMPI), the “right of nature” bill is currently in the draft stage. Though it has yet to be filed with either house of Congress, when it does it will be the first bill of its kind to be considered for legislation in the Philippines.
Inspired by similar initiatives in Latin American countries such as Ecuador and Bolivia, the RON bill’s main purpose is to grant nature legal personhood. This would endow it with rights currently associated with humans, including the right to exist and thrive; to habitat and diversity of life; to water and clean air; to equilibrium; to restoration; to be free from chemical trespass; to natural evolution; and to develop sustainably.
“We want to recognize nature as a distinct entity with legal personality,” says Macki Maderazo, the PMPI’s legal counsel. “When you say it has a legal personality then a person can represent nature before a court of law and can seek damages or prosecute persons who committed violations under the bill,” he adds.
The bill, touted as “revolutionary” among lawmakers, is expected to create a paradigm shift in existing environmental protection perspectives. Current Philippine laws on the environment are human-centered, Maderazo says, focusing on protecting the environmental rights of individuals but not of the environment itself. The RON bill presents a different perspective: nature gets legal protection because it’s recognized as a distinct legal entity that deserves legal representation. MORE