Power: Global Aspects, Local Prospects

pointclick-prospect-park.jpg

If you can’t see any prospects in that picture, I don’t see any prospects for you. Apt image from Point&Click who captions it ‘Prospect Park’ (flickr.com/). Prospecting is an art and a science. In the meantime, relax! If you are anywhere near New York, if you didn’t know, Prospect Park is a 585-acre urban oasis in the heart of Brooklyn, the city’s most populous borough (prospectpark.org/).

So, let us look at the prospects. But first, let us consider some definitions from my favorite dictionary American Heritage:

Prospect: act of surveying or examining; location or probable location of a mineral deposit; actual or probable mineral deposit; mineral yield obtained by working an ore.

Prospects: chances; financial expectations; especially of success; potential customers, client or purchasers; candidates deemed likely to succeed; outlooks; scenes

Having seen a part of New York, you may now think global, act local.

Having written yesterday the entry ‘Marine Biodiversity? RP Is Center Of Center’ (page down if you please), remembering that, just a few minutes ago I realized the danger that such good news brings:

If you are a person and people see prospects in you, you attract investors (prospectors or suitors), whatever that form of investment it may be. It may suit you fine, it may not.

If you are a country and people see prospects in your biodiversity, in the great variety of your plant life and wildlife and sealife, you attract bioprospectors. If you are the Philippines and therefore you have the world’s most biodiverse marine life, you attract the world’s most diverse bioprospectors – from the rich nations. That’s the good news as well as the bad news. Bioprospecting may be a blessing for those in disguise.

According to the law, bioprospecting is collecting plant or animal life for commercial purposes. The bioprospectors are the searchers and the law is their license. What is wrong with the law? It’s this: If I collect 13 specimens and declare them that they are intended for home or a party, not for commercial purposes, I don’t need clearance.

They think global, act local. Bioprospecting is good news because the country stands to benefit from the bioprospectors from the global arena. It’s bad news because it doesn’t work that way. It never did. You’re lucky if you get the credit for the plant or animal species they got from your island and nowhere else. That’s business, and it’s good for the bioprospectors.

We think local, act local. It’s bad news because the global rich guys finish first and foremost. The local poor guys that we are? We’re finished!

That’s some prospects from bioprospecting.

Remember, prospecting is art, science and exercise of power. From now on, more of the rich guys will be bioprospecting more in the waters of these Pearls of the Orient Seas, knowing that ‘there is a higher concentration of species per unit area in the Philippines than anywhere (else) …’ (Kent E Carpenter & Victor G Springer, 2005, Environmental Biology of Fishes, sci.odu.edu/). Carpenter & Springer add that the Philippines is ‘an epicenter of biodiversity and evolution,’ meaning that the diversity of marine life in Indonesia and Malaysia may simply have been an out-migration of the diverse marine life in the Philippines eons ago – the first OFWs, that is, overseas Filipino waterlife.

Biodiversity, as does beauty, is its own excuse for being – and for bioprospecting. There lies the danger, as you know honey attracts flies.

There are protective laws to be sure. In the Philippines, we have Republic Act 9147 passed in 2001, also called the ‘Wildlife Resources Conservation and Protection Act,’ where ‘wildlife’ is legally defined as including all land plants, all land animals, all sea creatures. This is in relation to intellectual property rights and related rights that may be invoked against Philippine wildlife. (On this note, it’s a bad law because it redefines the term ‘wildlife’ to include wild and domesticated plants and animals. It shows that law is no respecter of conventions.)

About RA 9147, I’m glad because in fact, we have the widest shoreline in the world, wider even than the continental United States, implying the most sealife. I’m sad because in fact, we Filipinos are the first despoilers of our seas. So why do we ask others to respect our waters? The power of example.

Two things about RA 9147 that I don’t like:

One: ‘Wildlife’ is split into those species under the jurisdiction of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and those under the Department of Agriculture (DA). To the DENR belongs ‘all terrestrial plant and animal species, all turtles and tortoises and wetland species, including but not limited to crocodiles, waterbirds and all amphibians and dugong.’ To the DA belongs ‘all declared aquatic critical habitats, all aquatic resources including but not limited to all fishes, aquatic plants, invertebrates and all marine mammals, except dugong.’ It’s all very confusing, and very unscientific. All that implies that there are overlapping authorities of the DENR and the DA, and we better do something about that first! And where’s our science?

Two: Power is concentrated in the hands of two government departments, the DENR and the DA. This is the power to issue clearance for research, collection, utilization and trading of wildlife; RA 9147 says the Secretary may authorize others to grant the clearance, that is to say, those Regional Directors. This is the traditional setup: The national government goes to the countryside and lords it over there. The regional offices are not under and not beholden to the local government units (LGUs), in whose political and geographical territory they are operating, whose citizens they are supposed to be serving directly and unconditionally. Now, let us not forget that the Local Government Code of 1991 devolved certain functions of the national government to the LGUs. It was and is an empowering law. But with such a provision of RA 9147, what power have the LGUs to manage the natural resources in their respective areas when they cannot even sign a simple clearance for the collection of a plant or animal? I collect orchids, ferns, other ornamental plants, driftwood, birds, fish whatever in your place but I don’t have to ask your permission. I don’t even have to say thank you. This is devolution in reverse. This is empowering the local executives by law (the Code of 1991) and dis-empowering them by another law (RA 9147). It’s not the letter of the law that counts, it’s the spirit.

My only conclusion? RA 9147 is a law passed in 2001 that goes back a hundred years in terms of enabling each local government to be a local government with a global outlook.

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Explore posts in the same categories: Beauty is its own excuse for being, Biodiversity, Bioprospecting, Empowerment, Local government, Power (people), RA 9147, Think Global Act Local

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