LEDAC-priority PENCAS bill gets Senate nod

By Wilnard Bacelonia

November 22, 2023, 6:51 pm

<p>The Philippine Senate Session Hall <em>(PNA file photo by Avito Dalan)</em> </p>

The Philippine Senate Session Hall (PNA file photo by Avito Dalan) 

MANILA – The Senate on Wednesday approved with 23 affirmative votes, zero negative, and no abstentions Senate Bill No. 2439 or the Philippine Ecosystem and Natural Capital Accounting System (PENCAS) Act.

The measure, which is a Legislative-Executive Development Advisory Council (LEDAC) priority bill, seeks to institutionalize PENCAS, mandating its use in policy and decision-making, designating the agencies responsible for its implementation, and providing institutional arrangements among responsible agencies.

Senate Pro Tempore Loren Legarda, who sponsored the measure, thanked other legislators for the support and emphasized its relevance which can be realized in the coming years.

"I assure you, the United Nations would not have utilized PENCAS in the 80s yet and the NEDA [National Economic Development Authority] would not have started the Bureau 10 years ago if it was not urgent and essential to measure what we treasure," Legarda said.

In a previous statement, NEDA Secretary Arsenio Balisacan said PENCAS would support the targets of Philippine Development Plan 2023-2028, particularly Chapter 15 -- the "Accelerate Climate Action and Strengthening Disaster Resilience", which aims to strengthen the resilience of communities, institutions, and ecosystems to the impacts of natural hazards and climate change.

Senator Grace Poe cited PENCAS in her manifestation as "a clear and reliable accounting system" that would steer the country's economic policies toward sustainability and also acknowledged the measure's emphasis on data transparency and accountability.

"The government and its people are partners in economic growth and environmental conservation, and our citizens can only participate meaningfully if data is made available to them. Hopefully, this measure is a bellwether for increased transparency in the government, including the legislation of a more comprehensive [Freedom of Information] FOI measure," Poe said.

Like Poe, Senator Pia Cayetano also cited PENCAS as a "step towards the right direction" despite its technicalities which would take more time for many Filipinos to understand.

"We need to ensure that the concepts of sustainability do not remain as concepts. They need to be embodied in every important agency in our government, particularly the finance agencies, budgeting agencies and it needs to be something that all our accountants and technical staff understand," Cayetano said.

The PENCAS Bill introduces an innovative approach that allows the government to account for the value of the country's natural resources and ecosystems by integrating their worth into national accounts.

With this, the government and other policymakers can make more informed decisions that balance economic growth with environmental protection which can ensure the long-term sustainability of the country's ecosystems. (PNA)