Speech of Senator Loren Legarda
2nd M.A.P. Climate Change Summit
“Ocean Security and Marine Biodiversity:
Challenges and Opportunities”
Session 1 – Policy, Planning & Legal Issues, Initiatives & Recommendations
10 November 2015 | Dusit Thani, Makati
I show you this map of sea surface temperatures from the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration of the US (NOAA). The red part of the oceans is the hottest parts of the sea surface. Note what country lies in the middle of it—the Philippines. What does that mean? It means three things:
One, basic atmospheric science tells us that hot water is the fuel of typhoons. Thus, in 2013, we were hit by one of the strongest typhoons in history to make landfall.
Second, where there is hot water, there is faster evaporation, and greater condensation and greater precipitation, or rain. Thus, we have experienced and will continue to experience intense rainfall and its consequential flooding.
Third, because heat expands matter, the sea water is expanding around the Philippines causing the rise in sea level.
This is just one of the impacts of climate change.
Coastal cities at risk
In its Fifth Assessment Report, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) finds that each of the last three decades has been successively warmer at the Earth’s surface than any preceding decade since 1850. Atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide are now at levels “unprecedented in at least the last 800,000 years.”
If global temperature rises by 2°C, sea level rise is projected to be less than 70 centimeters; with warming of up to 4°C, sea level rise is projected to be more than 100 cm.
Moreover, oceans have acidified, having absorbed about a third of the carbon dioxide emitted. This has resulted in coral bleaching.
For an archipelagic country like the Philippines with 832 municipalities and 25 cities classified as coastal areas, this unraveling scenario is a nightmare due to threats of inundation, decrease in fish catch, and weak tourism in marine environments.
Rising sea surface temperatures and ocean acidification are projected to cause major damages to coral reef systems. Reefs are, foremost, complex ecosystems that are vital to the continuity of life in the sea. They protect coastlines from wave and storm erosion and function as nurseries and habitats for thousands of marine species. They are ultimately connected to mangrove forests, seagrass beds, and countless other ecosystems.
Due to the vastness and depth of our seas, it has been a challenge for us to understand what is really happening beneath our oceans. This gives us more reason, especially that the Philippines is considered an epicenter of biodiversity and evolution, to provide special focus on marine conservation efforts.
Policies and innovations
There are policies and ongoing efforts aimed at addressing these concerns.
The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) is implementing the Sustainable Coral Reef Ecosystem Management Program (SCREMP), a national program on the protection and rehabilitation of coral reef ecosystems through a strategic, sustainable and ecosystem-based approach.
The Department of Science and Technology (DOST), through its Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic and Natural Resources Research and Development (PCAARRD), has a program called Filipinnovation on Coral Restoration, which aims to restore coral reefs in partnership with several universities, private institutions, local government units and other stakeholders. The program has established coral laboratories to produce young corals that will be used to enhance and restore coral reefs. It also attempts to identify genes that could possibly help corals cope with environmental stresses brought about by climate change.
In 2012, the Philippine Senate concurred in the ratification of theAgreement between the Philippines and the International Center for Living Aquatic Resources Management (ICLARM) to Establish the Office of the WorldFish Center in the Philippines.
The WorldFish Center’s projects on small-scale fisheries practice and aquaculture will contribute to improving nutrition and raising incomes in rural areas. Its work on biodiversity information systems will provide scientific basis for projects involving natural resources management and aquaculture. Its work on environmental conservation, jointly with national institutions, will be key to fighting poverty, food security and over-all economic development.
Meanwhile, the Partnerships in Environmental Management for the Seas of East Asia (PEMSEA) has been actively pushing for countries in East Asia to adopt the integrated coastal management (ICM) concept, a mechanism we truly support.
There is a proposed Integrated Coastal Management Act in the Senate that will create a national comprehensive framework that will promote the sustainable development of coastal and marine environment and resources. This will provide the direction, support and guidance to local government units in the development of their respective programs.
The Senate has also approved the proposed Expanded National Integrated Protected Areas System (ENIPAS) Act, which ensures stronger conservation of 97 protected areas in the country that range from huge natural parks, to landscapes and seascapes. There have been challenges regarding the approval of the bill in the Lower House but I am optimistic we can push through with the passage of this very important measure.
In addressing the impacts of climate change in our communities and ecosystems, we have the Climate Change Law, which I authored. It created the Climate Change Commission (CCC), headed by no less than the President of the Philippines, and mainstreams climate change adaptation in various phases of policy formulation.
The People’s Survival Fund (PSF) Act, a measure I sponsored in the Philippine Senate, complements our Climate Change Law by helping achieve its objectives through provision of funds for local governments’ climate adaptation activities, such as in the areas of land and water resources management, agriculture and fisheries, health, infrastructure development, and natural ecosystems preservation.
I also wish to take this opportunity to remind our local government units (LGUs) to craft their local climate change adaptation and mitigation project proposals and submit the same to the Climate Change Commission for funding under the PSF.
Turning commitments to action
If we want to protect our oceans and marine ecosystems from the impact of climate change, we have to mitigate. We have to drastically reduce carbon emissions because our seas may no longer take too much of it.
Towards the end of November, delegations from 196 member states of the United Nations will gather in France to negotiate for our future and heads of state of these countries will commit or not commit to urgent climate action.
The Philippines is a minor emitter of GHG, less than 0.3% of global GHG emissions. But because we are among the top 3 countries most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, we have to call upon other nations, especially developed countries that have the historical responsibility for climate change, to reduce their carbon emissions.
More importantly, we have to walk our talk. We cannot demand other nations to progressively decrease their dependence on fossil fuels if our very own vulnerable nation continues to choose coal over renewable energy sources. We have to go low carbon ourselves, otherwise, we lose the moral high ground as we call on other parties to reduce GHG emissions.
We call on other nations, as we do our own share, to limit warming to 1.5°C to be able to survive.
The future of our oceans, and that of us humans, relies on how much action we are willing to take today.
Certainly there is no panacea for this, but a united front against the causes of marine ecosystems decline is our greatest weapon in our long and arduous journey, and this gathering is a vital step forward in our fight for a sustainable future.