Environment Secretary Gina Lopez envisions the Philippines as a country whose citizens give more value to the environment than material possessions and physical comforts in their pursuit of happiness.

In a recent budget briefing in the Senate, Lopez said the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) will remain steadfast in achieving its goal of a cleaner, healthier and happier environment for Filipinos.

"A cleaner and greener environment would make people healthier and happier," Lopez told Senate finance panel chair Sen. Loren Legarda.

Lopez said the DENR will continue to promote environmental protection and manage the country's natural resources in an ecologically sustainable way to ensure that they are available for the enjoyment and use of present and future generations.

She said people who live in a cleaner and healthier environment tend to be more productive and earn more for other needs while spending less on health problems, resulting in less crime and better peace and order situation.

"You may have a lot of money, but why should money be your goal?" Lopez pointed out.

Meanwhile, Lopez informed Legarda that she already directed the DENR's planning and policy office to monitor the impact of the budget and programs of the department on people's lives.

"We will measure the impact on four areas: health, economy, peace and order, and the environment," Lopez said.

The DENR chief said she would like to follow Bhutan's model of measuring gross domestic happiness (GNH) index, which gives equal importance to non-economic aspects of well-being in quantifying social and national progress.

Coined by Bhutan's fourth king, His Majesty JigmeSingye Wangchuck, GNH is based on the four pillars of good governance, sustainable socio-economic development, cultural preservation, and environmental conservation.

Legarda agreed with Lopez, saying it is precisely the reason she re-filed a resolution asking the National Economic and Development Authority to reconsider growth measurements not only in terms of gross domestic product, but also GNH.

"When you have a cleaner and more resilient environment, you become happier, healthier and eventually, richer," the lawmaker said. ###