IN 1995, the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) published the award-winning Boss: 5 Case Studies of Local Politics in the Philippines. In Patrimony, some of the country’s best investigative reporters focus their investigative skills on the link between local politics and the environment, examining how democratization and devolution have affected the way resources are managed at the local level. Patrimony looks at the structures of local power and explains how those who hold local office use their power to exploit, or in some cases protect, natural resources.
This collection ventures into new territory by identifying emerging trends and social forces augur well for the environment. Ten years since the fall of Ferdinand Marcos, democracy and decentralization have unleashed positive changes. The Local Government Code, enacted in 1991, has empowered communities, giving them the clout to protect their resources. But they have also enhanced the prerogatives of local officials, some of whom are the biggest resource-exploiters in their areas.
Democracy has allowed Green groups to organize freely and given free rein to an unmuzzled press that has exposed environmental abuse. Increasing public pressure, especially in the wake of major natural disasters, has also prompted the government to act, in many instances, as an impartial arbiter of environmental disputes.
But the struggle is far from over. Very real stumbling blocks—entrenched economic interests, unsustainable development strategies and bureaucratic inertia—stabd in the way of correcting the way in which natural resources are managed.