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Opening Statement at the BMUB High-level Round Table Discussion with Key Philippine Government Partners

April 6, 2017

Opening Statement of Senator Loren Legarda*

BMUB High-level Round Table Discussion with

Key Philippine Government Partners

Edsa Shangri-la Hotel, 6 April 2017

 

*Delivered on behalf of Senator Loren Legarda

 

On March 14 this year, the Philippine Senate voted unanimously to concur in the ratification of the Paris Agreement, making the Philippines the 138th[1] country, out of 197 parties, to ratify the deal.

 

The Paris Agreement is said to be a “testament of solidarity” and an instrument for global climate action. It provides a platform by which developing and developed countries shall pursue climate action and uphold climate justice together.

 

It is now time to take this Agreement forward, and we can only be too happy to continue working with the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Building and Nuclear Safety (BMUB). We are grateful for its assistance through the International Climate Initiative (IKI), channeling at least 60 million EUROS, to help strengthen climate change and natural resource management efforts.

 

Holding this High Level Roundtable Discussion on climate initiatives is very timely for a number of reasons.

 

First, we need to ensure that these vital resources for development assistance are channeled into activities that will provide the greatest benefit for all.

 

Second, we all need to be reminded that this package of assistance is not about executing agency projects, but rather, about bigger national objectives that transcend agency goals. At the end of the day, we need to determine how these initiatives impact on our national vision of achieving a “prosperous society… where people enjoy long and healthy lives….”[2]

 

Having said this, we need to adopt a whole-of-government and whole-of-society approach in designing and implementing projects and policies.

 

Third, the Philippine Development Plan 2017-2022 was adopted on February 20 this year. It consists of 21 chapters and there is no single chapter that does not bear the words, climate, environment, disaster, or vulnerability. These words were mentioned at least 361 times, while two chapters have been devoted to “Reducing Vulnerabilities of Individuals and Families, and “ Ensuring Ecological Integrity, Clean and Healthy Environment.”

 

This only underscores the great import our government has placed on climate change, environmental protection and sustainability, and disaster risk reduction and resilience.

 

Government agencies need to ensure that their plans and activities are aligned with the goals and strategies outlined in our national plan.

 

Allow me to cite some very interesting strategies outlined in that document:

 

  • Strengthening of environmental courts to keep up with the influx of environmental cases;
  • Developing integrated neighborhoods and sustainable communities for low-income households through a National Spatial Strategy that ensures that housing and location of human settlements will comply with disaster risk reduction and management (DRRM) and climate change adaptation (CCA) requirements;
  • Positioning the country as the global hub for Disaster Risk Reduction and Climate Change Adaptation and Mitigation;
  • Adoption of science, technology and innovation to lead the creation of new public goods and services to address the needs of society, including in the areas of energy, disaster resilience, climate change adaptation;
  • Institutionalize ecosystem valuation and natural resource monitoring system;
  • Institutionalizing a policy for the payment of Ecosystem Services as a way of incentivizing the management of our environment and natural resources. This will also provide an alternative source of income to the local communities.
  • Intensification of efforts for the sustainable management of natural resources through adoption of ridge-to-reef approach and sustainable integrated area development.

 

There are many other strategies identified and our agencies will need to integrate in the relevant ones into their own plans and programs.

 

A number of proposed legislative measures were also identified, some of which have been the subject of my own legislative initiatives.

 

This brings me to the fourth reason why this high level dialogue is timely and important.

 

As we seek to address key challenges and issues in the area of climate change and biodiversity, let us be mindful of the central role that policies play in addressing these.

 

As a legislator, I have seen how disjointed policies and the lack of sound and effective vertical and horizontal coordination within and across government agencies can hamper the delivery of the most basic services to our communities. This is an immediate and pressing concern that needs to be resolved.

 

As Chair of the Senate Finance Committee, I incorporated special provisions in the General Appropriations Act of 2017 that will compel agencies to work together on shared issues and priorities. Mainstreaming environmental protection and sustainability in our budget is key; but more importantly, the governance framework needs to work effectively and efficiently.

 

I have also introduced a number of measures that are relevant to the subject of your RTD. Permit me to share these with you.

 

Over the last century, the country’s forest cover of around 30 million hectares has now dropped to 7.2 million hectares. As such, reforestation initiatives must be accelerated as a way to adapt to a changing climate. In seeking to address ecosystems decline, which is one of the drivers of our vulnerability to disasters and climate change, I have filed a measure that will promote greening and forest land rehabilitation and protection at the barangay level.

 

I also introduced a bill that will institutionalize an environmental and natural resources accounting system. The valuation of our natural resources will help in our development planning and ensure that due importance is given to our finite resources.

 

The degradation of our coastal areas has long ceased to be merely an environmental issue as it pushed coastal communities deeper into poverty through losses in livelihood, vulnerability to natural hazards, and even health problems. Because of this, I am also seeking for the adoption of an Integrated Coastal Management Program to ensure optimum resource utilization and sustainable coastal and marine development. By this measure, we seek to capacitate local government units (LGUs) in the development of their respective ICM programs.

 

I have also introduced a measure for the adoption of a “low carbon economy.” The idea is to pave the way for a cleaner environment by limiting the release of greenhouse gases by the industrial and commercial sectors. The intention is to set a cap on the greenhouse gas emissions of companies. In effect, this will pave the way for a pseudo-financial market that allows for companies to trade credits, coupled with the added benefit of maintaining the target emissions in the economy.

 

More recently, I have proposed the establishment of environmental units in every banking institution to assess the environmental component of loan applications. This measure will help strike a balance between economic development and environmental protection by creating in-house environmental units in every lending institution towards ensuring that projects that are subject of financing applications, as well as collateral offered as security, shall conform to environmental laws.

 

Recognizing the importance of energy efficiency to our sustainable energy agenda, I have introduced a bill towards widening the reach and breadth of energy efficiency measures across various sectors and industries. It will incentivize the shift to more energy efficient technologies, set performance standards and labeling requirements, and compelling compliance thereof. This is a long overdue measure that will complement the country’s renewable energy law.

 

These measures are vital to our efforts to mitigate or reduce our carbon emissions as we collectively seek to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

 

Our country is visited by an average of 20 typhoons a year and experience El Niño every 2 to 7 years.   Climate action, therefore, is a vital component of disaster risk reduction (DRR) strategies.

 

We seek to mitigate as we adapt. We rehabilitate our forests to increase our carbon sinks, and at the same time reduce disaster risks, since forests serve as natural buffer against landslides, storm surge and tsunami.

 

We have to pursue more aggressive measures to transition to a low carbon economy not only by promoting renewable energy sources but also through energy conservation.

 

Finally, we need to capacitate our local government units and communities to contribute to mitigation efforts, while at the same time embracing adaptive measures. The development of local climate change action plans (LCCAP) is an example of how policies need to find fruition on the ground to build resilience in our communities.

 

I am grateful for all the support extended by the German government in helping us develop sectors and communities that are climate-engaged. This spirit of cooperation is the foundation upon which we may find lasting solutions to the climate and environmental challenges that face us today.

 

Thank you and I look forward to the success of this event.

 

[1] As per the Philippine Mission to the United Nations

[2] Ambisyon 2040