Polluter Pays Principle

Manila Bulletin, April 16, 2008 | Go to article overview

Polluter Pays Principle


Byline: Francis N. Tolentino

ENVIRONMENTAL degradation is the price that society pays for its pursuit of industrialization and economic growth. Calling to mind our article about Simon Kuznets' Environmental Kuznets Curve (February 27, 2008) - which suggests that as industrialization takes place within a particular country, less concern is given to the environment, thus giving rise to environmental concerns such as air and water pollution, deforestation, and other similar means of resource depletion -- we draw our readers' attention to another well recognized international principle that we believe had remained unutilized through the years and that needs urgent and serious implementation if we are indeed to abate the consequences of man's reckless use of natural resources.

In the Philippines, it is true that legislation has been made to address the global concern about environmental management. We have, for example, the likes of the National Pollution Control Decree of 1976, the Toxic Substances and Hazardous and Nuclear Wastes Control Act of 1990, the Philippine Mining Act of 1995 and the Clean Air Act of 1999. However, replete with significant and meaningful environmental policies as we are, we remain wanting in the effective implementation of the same. Many local governments have lost sight of the important role that political will and governance play in the sustainability of their local economy as well as their environment. We need not discuss here current mining issues raging in Nueva Vizcaya, Bulacan, Samar and Palawan.

The Polluter Pays Principle (PPP), which is one of the core principles of sustainable development recognizes that the polluter should pay for any environmental damage created, and that burden of proof in demonstrating that a particular technology, practice or product is safe should lie with the developer or company concerned, not the general public.

This principle was first mentioned at the 1972 Recommendation by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development Council on Guiding Principles concerning International Economic Aspects of Environmental Policies, where it stated: "The principle to be used for allocating costs of pollution prevention and control measures to encourage rational use of scarce environmental resources and to avoid distortions in international trade and investment is the so-called Polluter-Pays Principle." It further elaborates: "This principle means that the polluter should bear the expenses of carrying out the above-mentioned measures decided by public authorities to ensure that the environment is in an acceptable state." (OECD 1972)

The PPP has also been reaffirmed in the 1992 Rio Declaration, at Principle 16 stating that: "National authorities should endeavour to promote the internalization of environmental costs and the use of economic instruments, taking into account the approach that the polluter should, in principle, bear the cost of pollution, with due regard to the public interest and without distorting international trade and investment." Similarly, PPP is mentioned, recalled or otherwise referred to in both Agenda 21 and the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) Johannesburg Plan of Implementation, which this author was privileged to attend in South Africa a few years ago. …

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