Oath Taking Ceremony of November 2012 Civil Engineering Licensure Examination Passers
PICC, Roxas Boulevard
December 15, 2012
A week after the most devastating typhoon to hit our country this year, we are reeling from the consequences. Based on the latest statistics released by the NDRRMC, 906 have died and 900 more remain missing, while we have incurred about P15 billion worth of damages.
Our times have certainly changed. Typhoons are stronger, floods come faster, and each year it seems more lives are lost and more properties are damaged. This is the reality we must contend with.
As the newest civil engineers of the Philippines, there is a great responsibility upon your shoulders. Civil Engineering and its sub-disciplines are responsible for many infrastructures that make modern life possible. We look to you for everything from our sidewalks to our skyscrapers. I congratulate you for this milestone in your life, and I am sure that your family and loved ones are justly proud. At the same time, I wish to remind you that climate change will no doubt impact your profession.
A 4-degree Celsius world may have seem impossible twenty years ago, but today, the World Bank warned us that we are in fact nearing a crisis that if not responded proactively, will continue to endanger the survival of this and the next generation.
According to the World Bank report, the worse impacts of a 4-degree Celsius global temperature would likely happen if nations would not comply with their commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Such warmer climate would increase sea level by up to 3 feet. Furthermore, it would cause flooding in many coastal cities; dry regions are expected to become dryer while wet regions will be wetter; there will be extreme heat waves, water scarcity, stronger tropical cyclones, and loss of biodiversity.
It is important to realize that the changing climate will have its worse effects on the poor, a sector continuously aggravated by the lack of systematic and meritocratic system. This is why disseminating information and creating awareness about environmental conservation and sustainable development has never been as vital as it is today.
If global mean temperatures exceed 1.5 to 2.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, 30% of all species will face a high risk of extinction.
Furthermore, due to changes in temperature, rain fall and sea level, crop yield is estimated to decline by 19% in Asia toward the end of the century and rice yield, by about 75%. A 2 to 4-degree Celsius rise in global temperature will also lead to a 3% decline in global GDP.
Here in our country, through the Philippine Climate Change Act of 2009 and Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act, both of which I authored, proactive climate change and disaster preparedness measures were legislated. In the Philippine Senate, we have institutionalized a Committee on Climate Change, which I chair, to ensure the implementation of laws as well as the sustainability of initiatives for climate change adaptation.
We have also successfully ushered the passage of the People’s Survival Fund Law, and we hope it will be funded in the 2013 General Appropriations Act.
I am also unrelenting in pushing for the full implementation of our major environmental laws: the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the Solid Waste Management Act, and the Renewable Energy Act.
But beyond these laws we must act more swiftly, more wisely, and more decisively to build resilience to disasters, especially in our own capacity. We must build networks among engineers, public servants, and everyday citizens in order to disseminate information on geohazards and simple but effective ways in order to prevent them from turning into disasters.
With the future of many generations at stake, you as civil engineers are effective frontliners in the overall climate change action. With your expertise and enthusiasm, I trust that you will be my staunch partners in raising awareness for sustainable development, mobilizing direct action, and promoting solutions to climate change.
Now is the time to redefine development – to change our way of thinking and our way of doing, and give nothing less than our wholehearted commitment to a safer world, a more resilient human society for many generations to come.
Again, congratulations, and thank you very much.
 United Nations