Congresswoman Josephine “Nene” Ramirez Sato: Eco-Heroine, Outstanding Public Servant, Tiger Lady with a Pure Heart

Josephine “Nene” Sato Josephine “Nene” Sato

CONGRESSWOMAN Josephine “Nene” Sato, of the lone district of Occidental Mindoro, is among the most respected and revered members of the Philippine House of Representatives. She belongs to a rare breed of exceptional public servants who uphold the highest standard for work while winning the heart of the public.

For the past 30 years, Congw. Sato never lost an election. She effortlessly won the unwavering trust and confidence of her constituency, serving them as vice governor, governor, and now as their representative.

Virtually everything Congw. Sato does, she accomplishes outstandingly. Outperforming her contemporaries even in her early years, Congw. Sato was class valedictorian from grade school through high school as well as a dean’s lister in her time at the University.

She finished her law degree at the University of the Philippines. Going above and beyond, Congw. Sato also studied International Law and Taxation at the Harvard University School of Law and took up Urban Studies and Planning at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

‘Tiger’ Lady of the CA

Diligence and an unyielding commitment to excellence continue to define Congw. Sato’s political career. Armed with her impressive academic background, she began holding public office in 1988, consistently garnering awards and accolades since then. This includes her recognition as “Most Outstanding Local Government Chief Executive” by the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) during her term as governor in 2000. In 2014 and 2016, Congw. Sato also received the Certificate of Recognition from the University of the Philippines College of Law “for distinguished achievements that contribute to national development, for uncompromising dedication to the profession and public service and for fearless advocacy of the Rule of Law.” She was recently named as one of the 15 Outstanding Congressmen of 2017 by Superbrands Marketing International.

After 30 years in public service, Congw. Sato has never backed down from a challenge. In 2016, she became a member of the Commission on Appointments (CA), the constitutional body which decides whether to confirm or reject appointees of the President of the Philippines.

Dubbed as the “Tiger Lady of the CA,” Congw. Sato was celebrated for asking the toughest questions. With her rigorous interrogation style, she is clearly steadfast about testing the knowledge and abilities of each appointed official regardless of their popularity and political clout. Her bold commitment to her duties and her no-nonsense approach earned her praises from the press and other colleagues. Her significant contributions to a stricter, more decisive CA have not gone unnoticed. The CA of the 17th Congress is thus far, making history for having stood its ground, fearlessly rejecting the most number of appointees in key national agencies.

Crusader of the Environment

Congw. Sato’s passion to consistently push for and lead her constituents towards a green path to development was largely influenced by her love for her province.

Occidental Mindoro, a small-island province known as the “marine wonderland,” is home to the Apo Reef, the second largest contiguous coral reef system in the world, next only to the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. The province also has five out of the ten key biodiversity areas in Mindoro, hosting many threatened and endangered plant and animal life, including the endemic tamaraw.

An avid proponent of protecting the environment, Congw. Sato has been working to rehabilitate, conserve, and manage Mt. Iglit-Baco National Park, the tamaraw’s natural habitat, since she started holding public office. She also led the movement to ban large-scale mining in Mindoro Island. Together with the Provincial Government of Oriental Mindoro, she helped declare the Island of Mindoro “off limits” to mining. Through a 25-year mining moratorium, Occidental Mindoro, under her leadership, became one of the first provinces to ever ban the entry of mining firms, despite the strong lobby of the mining industry.

As a lawmaker, Congw. Sato has been making headway by creating better, more comprehensive and more responsive environmental laws. Her aim is crystal clear: environmental policies must, above all, benefit people and communities, their livelihood and habitat.

One such law, out of the many she authored, is the Expanded National Integrated Protected Areas System of the Philippines (ENIPAS), which the Senate and the House of Representatives recently passed. It is due for the President’s approval and signature before the 2018 State of the Nation Address (SONA). The ENIPAS is set to increase the number of protected areas in the country from 13 to 107 or from 800,000 hectares to 3.5 million hectares. That’s about 10% of our country’s total land area.

Such an urgently necessary law, the ENIPAS will protect the endangered tamaraw in Mt. Iglit-Baco, the diverse marine biodiversity of Apo Reef, the pink coralline sand of the Great Sta. Cruz Island in Zamboanga, the marine turtles of the Turtle Islands Marine Sanctuary in Tawi-Tawi, and many more unique marine and terrestrial species in the Philippines.

With stricter regulations, the ENIPAS also expands the scope of prohibited acts and imposes stiffer fines as well as longer prison terms for violators. Public officials will also be held fully accountable because the ENIPAS will criminalize non-compliance with possible perpetual disqualification from public office.

Congw. Sato’s exemplary work speaks for itself, reaching across geographies, beyond the wonderful province of Occidental Mindoro, even beyond the Philippines. She now serves as the Legislative Champion for Biodiversity Financing of the Biodiversity Financing Initiative (BioFin) – Philippines, United Nations Development Program (UNDP). She is a thought leader on biodiversity conservation, a sought-after speaker and guest of honor at public gatherings here and abroad.

From staunchly advocating for better environmental laws to winning every election, Congw. Josephine “Nene” Ramirez Sato keeps the flame burning for what public service should be — effective and excellent.

The Commission on Appointments has performed credibly in the case of the former secretary of foreign affairs. Rep. Josephine Ramirez-Sato deserves our gratitude and commendation for the manner in which she exposed the gentleman who had, to be kind, explained his position with what has recently been termed “alternative facts.”

— Roberto Romulo, Philippine Star, March 10

The 15-member foreign affairs committee unanimously recommended the rejection of Perfecto Yasay Jr., after extensive grilling by Rep. Josephine Ramirez Sato of Occidental Mindoro, who gave him no chance to extricate himself from the pit he had dug for himself.

— Francisco Tatad, The Manila Times, March 10

You are known as the ‘tiger lady’ of the Commission on Appointments.You do your research. You are so effective in the Commission on Appointments. It would be a shame to see you leave.

— Headstart, ANC, March 13

I never doubted Sato’s competence. She is an excellent member of both the Philippine Bar and California Bar.

— Emil Jurado, The Manila Standard, March 21

A politician for almost 3 decades now, Sato is no-nonsense in dealing with the task at hand. When it comes to her job, it’s nothing personal.

— Rappler, April 1

Feisty talaga! OccMin Rep. Sato grills DOJ Sec. Guevarra during his CA hearing.

— PolitikoBikol, May 31

Emerging Asian Woman Thought Leader

FOR her distinguished work in Congress, the Commission on Appointments and for the environment sector, Congresswoman Josephine ‘Nene’ Ramirez Sato is now recognized as a thought leader in her field as she graces several national, regional and international assemblies, conferences and workshops.

Having been designated by UNDP Philippines and Biodiversity Finance Initiative (BioFin) Philippines as the country’s Legislative Champion for Biodiversity, Congw. Nene has served as a keynote speaker in several UNDP organized assemblies on the environment and biodiversiy.

In April 2017, she led the Philippine delegation in the 3rd BioFin Regional Workshop: Working Towards Financing Biodiversity Conservation held in Almaty, Kazakhstan.

Immediately after, as a means to report back to the environment sector community and further push for policy and action around Biodiversity, Congw. Nene addressed the Philippine National Biodiversity Congress:Upwelling of Lessons Sustaining Community Benefits in the Conservations of Landscapes and Seascapesheld in Metro Manila, Philippines last May 2017.

Last March, the UNDP along with the BioFin community held its Third (3rd) Global Conference and General Assembly on BiodDiversity Finance in Chennai, India. In this meeting of nations as represented by environment and finance ministers and members of parliament, various ongoing and planned financing models and mechanisms to support biodiversity were shared, discussed and reviewed. Again Congw. Nene served as the lead of the Philippine delegation.

As a member of the Philippine parliament and an active political leader, Congw. Nene is also regularly invited to more political assemblies and conferences.

In the Council of Asian Liberal and Democrats (CALD) General Assembly held in Bangkok, Thailand last November 2016, she served as Session Presentor on “What Every Liberal Ought to Know about the Global Rise of Illiberalism.” She met and discussed among Asian members of parliament. And had a good meet up with Hon. Abhisit Vejjajiva who is the current chairperson of CALD and heads the Democrat Party of Thailand.

In August of 2017, the CALD Women’s Caucus, Conference and Workshop on Women Empowering Women: Experiences Across Asiawas held in Taipei and Taichung, Taiwan.Congw. Nene, she spoke on Gender Awareness, Gender-based Violence and Gender Gap in Asia. Here she met Hon. Annette Lu, the first woman Vice-President of Taiwan.

For the 70th Anniversary of Liberal International, a conference among Liberal and Democrat members of parliament from around the world held at Escaldes - Engordany, Andorra last May 2017, Congw. Nene joined the discussion on “How to be Popular, without being a Populist”, picking-up from her presentation in the Asian conference. She was joined by leaders from Asian, South America, Africa and Europe.

There is an ongoing Knowledge Exchange program between the Ethics Committee of the Philippine House of Representative and its counterpart, the Ethics Council House Regional Representatives of the Republic of Indonesia. As part of the Ethics Committee, Congw. Nene has been active in meeting with the delegates from Indonesia when they came for a study visit in the Philippines in the early part of 2018.

On the other hand, the congresswoman participated in the counterpart study visit held in Jakarta, Indonesia last March 2018.

Just last June 2018 in Berlin, Germany, Congw. Nene delivered a presentation for the session on “Lives on the Balance: Making Environmental Policies Work for the People” in the 200th Executive Committee of Liberal International and Conference on Delivering Climate Justice: Leading Liberals towards Enacting the Paris Agreement.