Environment Secretary Roy A. Cimatu has called on the nation’s local executives to show “decisive environmental leadership” and sustain the gains fueled by President Rodrigo Roa Duterte’s strong political will and commitment to address the most pressing environmental problems in the country.

Cimatu met with 74 governors and 1,538 city and municipal mayors at the “The Assembly of Governors and Mayors” held in Manila on July 23. In that same event, the President gave the top leaders of local government units (LGUs) his marching order to intensify the war against illegal drug, corruption, extremism and communist insurgency.

The environment chief reminded the governors and mayors to show political will and take the initiative, and not to wait for the national government to intervene.

He explained that the President’s decision to close and rehabilitate Boracay Island for six months last year was “a general warning” to local executives who sacrifice sustainable development as a result of their failure to enforce environmental laws.

The island’s closure led to the filing of charges against local officials for gross neglect of duty, he pointed out.

“This message was duly noted by local governments in Coron and El Nido in Palawan, Panglao Island in Bohol, and Puerto Galera in Orioental Mindoro, among others,” the environment chief noted.

“You have control over business permits and land use and development,” Cimatu said, as he warned of adverse environmental impacts if such control is not properly exercised.

“LGUs have the autonomy, as well as the duty, to improve environmental conditions in their areas,” Cimatu stressed.

He reminded them of their mandate “to create conditions that can determine whether or not the pursuit of local development can or cannot be environmentally sustainable.”

Cimatu, however, assured the governors and mayors of support from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to capacitate their competence in addressing and implementing priority environmental concerns and projects within their respective jurisdictions.

“The DENR can and will provide technical support on a broad range of concerns from geohazard mapping to reforestation, to the management of solid waste and air and water pollution,” Cimatu said, noting that the local governments of Coron and El Nido in Palawan, Panglao Island in Bohol, and Puerto Galera in Oriental Mindoro have acknowledged this support.

He prodded them not to balk from enforcing environmental laws, and that he is mobilizing the entire DENR workforce from the central, regional, provincial and community levels to assist them “as long as they do their part.”

At the same time, Cimatu urged LGUs to help address the country’s vulnerability to climate change hazards through a convergence approach that highlights the key role of local authorities in the transition to more sustainable ways of environmental governance.

The eight provinces identified as most vulnerable to climate change hazards are Masbate, Sorsogon, Negros Oriental, Samar, Saranggani, Surigao del Sur, Surigao del Norte and Dinagat Islands.

Climate change hazards include sea-level rise, drought and other climate change-induced disasters like landslides and flooding.

Cimatu heads the Cabinet Cluster on Climate Change Adaptation, Mitigation and Disaster Risk Reduction with 24 government agencies as members.

“Together, let us continue to transform national policies and programs into local actions with quantifiable gains,” Cimatu said. ###