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Speech: Conversations Among Thought Leaders: Building Resilience in Turbulent Times

July 20, 2016

Speech of Senator Loren Legarda
Conversations Among Thought Leaders:
Building Resilience in Turbulent Times
20 July 2016 | Discovery Primea, Makati City

We may be vulnerable, but we are not incapable.

Climate change is undeniably in our midst, increasing the risks of disaster in vulnerable cities and communities—and the Philippines is one of the countries that greatly bear the brunt of the climate crisis.

Despite this, we have shown the world that there is strength in vulnerability.

At the COP 21 in Paris last December, the Philippines, as President of the Climate Vulnerable Forum (CVF), was among the most influential countries that helped craft the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, which seeks to limit global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius, and possibly not more than 1.5 degrees Celsius.

We have laws—the Climate Change Act and the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act—considered by the United Nations and other countries as model legislation.

Our government has also started climate-tagging expenditure for climate change adaptation and mitigation and will prioritize funding for adaptation to reduce the vulnerability and address the climate risks to our communities. The 2016 national budget is one that promotes climate-adaptive, disaster-resilient, risk-sensitive and sustainable development.

In all of this, we are telling the world that, we may be vulnerable, but we are not incapable of action.

However, with the impact of the climate crisis, we know that this is no longer just an issue of taking action, but also of how much action we need to take.

It is clear that we need to act now, because if we go business as usual, our own children and grandchildren will already suffer from the impacts of a scorching earth. If they are enough reason for us to care, then urgent climate action is a must.

We must decrease our dependence on fossil fuels, especially coal, and shift to renewable energy; we must veer away from the throwaway culture and aim for zero waste economy; we must turn our back on extractive and consumptive practices.

We can all do this together, but we have to embrace the concept of a simple, sustainable, healthy and resilient lifestyle. We go back to the basics of a quality life. We start with ourselves, because the only way to inspire others to take action is to do it ourselves.

Let me speak from my experience.

Recently, I introduced physical changes in my office because I wanted to transform it into a common open space conducive to interaction, and to demonstrate that environmental upkeep starts with our homes and offices. To achieve this, I had all the cubicles removed, and in their place, I put a long table constructed out of discarded pallets of solar panels. I took out the steel cabinets, and in their place now are old wood and antique capiz windows to cover the compartments – illustrating that recycling builds, rather than destroys. Garbage bins that are properly marked guide the staff in segregation and all lights have been changed to LED.

These examples highlight the value of creating the conditions by which we can change behavior and attitude toward supporting the goals we want to achieve.

Yes, we need laws to govern us, but the law itself cannot change people’s behaviors and mindsets. They set policies that are meant to inspire. Leaders and community members give life to these policies.

The Municipality of San Francisco of the Camotes Group of Islands in the Visayas Region sets an example. The townsfolk established the “purok system,” a traditional method of self-organization to build capacity for local action, inculcating the discipline for proper waste management and disaster prevention.

The residents exercised vigilance in implementing segregation at source—strictly enforcing the “no trash segregation-no collection” policy, recycling, composting and the collection of payment for carbon taxes, which are based on the amount of domestic waste produced from day to day. To rehabilitate their watersheds, the local government initiated the Two Million Trees project.

For its innovative efforts, the municipality was accorded the 2011 UN Sasakawa award for Disaster Risk Reduction.

Another model community is Barangay Potrero in Malabon City, Metro Manila.

Home to about 54,000 residents, Barangay Potrero, with the help of Mother Earth Foundation, achieved almost 95% compliance of the Ecological Solid Waste Management Law. It strictly implements “Door-to-Door” and “No Segregation, No Collection” policies. A team of 18 members monitors the implementation, while 37 eco-aides/collectors make rounds using pushcarts instead of garbage trucks to ensure proper segregation at least cost. The community has been nationally awarded for its innovative efforts.

We also have best practices in the private sector.

The Cravings Group, a well-known chain of restaurants, promotes a zero waste lifestyle. The core of their programs is complying with the 5Es of the ESWM Act, which are: Engineering, Education, Enforcement, Entrepreneurship and Eco-valuation. They run their own materials recovery facility (MRF) and have reached at least 95% diversion rate from the dumpsite.

Their kitchens have different containers for various kinds of waste — from food waste to fruit and vegetable peels to seafood and eggshells. Fruit and vegetable peels are left in covered containers to drain and later on developed into organic fertilizer inputs.

This is just one of the many environment-friendly practices being observed by The Cravings Group, which is the first in the Philippines to be granted an ISO 14001 certification, the global standard in environmental excellence.

On the tourism front, the El Nido Resorts in Palawan uses state-of-the-art sewage treatment to ensure that no raw sewage and grey water are discharged into the sea. With their own materials recovery facility, they employ recycling and reusing methods such as sending cooking oil containers back to the supplier for a refill instead of buying anew.

The resort promotes environmental stewardship through its Environmental Code of Conduct called “Ten El-NiDos,” reminding guests about environmentally sensitive Protected Areas and the appropriate behavior to ensure conservation.

As a long-time environmental advocate, I know how hard it is to convince people to protect our environment. People act when there is threat and fear; but that is not how we should live. People need to be inspired and feel that they are part of a shared cause.

It is said that a great movement may be born
in the minds of a few, but it must be spoken by the mouths of many, and must
be carried on the shoulders of all—of every woman, man and child.

Each of us has opportunities to make a difference for our future. We must lead the way towards meaningful change—change in the way we think, change in the way we live, and change in the way we pursue the development and the future we long for—for our children and grandchildren, for all of humanity, for all species in the world, for our own survival, and for the only planet we call home.

Thank you.