Senator Loren Legarda’s Keynote Speech
Zero Waste Youth Convergence
7 January 2015 – Philippine Normal University, Manila
Much has been said about the resilience of the Filipino people to immediately rise up disaster after every disaster. However, the threat of natural hazards and extreme weather events to the survival of our communities requires us to match this strong spirit with the ability to act fast and act resolutely not only after disasters strike, but even in anticipation of natural hazards and extreme weather events. It is no longer an issue of how we are able to respond to calamities, but rather, how we try to deter or minimize disasters from happening, especially now that extreme weather events are “the new normal”.
What is more alarming is the fact that various statistics have identified the Philippines as among the world’s most vulnerable to natural hazards.
The recently released Global Risk Index 2015 showed that among 160 countries, the Philippines is most affected by extreme weather conditions, such as intense floods, droughts and fiercer typhoons in 2013—the year when a 7.2-magnitude earthquake rocked Central Visayas and 25 typhoons, including Super Typhoon Yolanda, hit the country.
The Philippines, being an archipelagic state located in the western edge of the Pacific Ocean and directly within the Ring of Fire, faces the constant risk of typhoons, drought, as well as earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. But factors such as the lack of protection from natural hazards, weak urban planning, a growing urban poor, vulnerable rural livelihood, and a degraded ecosystem have made us more vulnerable to disasters and climate change.
We actually have the laws and policies needed to help us build the resilience of our communities. We have worked hard to enact these laws.
Since my first term in 1998 in the Senate, my advocacy has been consistent and clear – protect our environment, build resilience to disasters, adapt to climate change and mitigate its impacts. It was not an easy task as people viewed the climate issue then as abstract, best reserved for experts and the scientists.
In 1999, we pushed for the passage of the Clean Air Act (Republic Act No. 8749). Aiming to protect the essential right of the people to breathe clean air, the law formulates a holistic national program of air pollution management, with emphasis on pollution prevention rather than on control, through the formulation of an Integrated Air Quality Improvement Framework developed with the participation of the private sector, non-governmental organizations and the academe.
The following year, another landmark law was enacted—the Ecological Solid Waste Management Law (Republic Act No. 9003), which I authored and sponsored. The law sets guidelines for reduction of solid waste through measures that include composting, recycling, re-use, recovery and further mandated the proper segregation, collection and disposal of solid waste through the adoption of environmental practices in ecological waste management excluding incineration.
To develop sound policies, the law created the National Solid Waste Management Commission under the Office of the President, which should promote research on ecological solid waste management and resource conservation and coordinate the operation of local solid waste management boards in the local government units. The law sets the trend in encouraging greater private sector participation in solid waste management.
On January 26, we will mark the 14th anniversary of the enactment of the Ecological Solid Waste Management Law. But how well have we implemented the law?
Under the law, all LGUs should have a solid waste management plan. The latest available data on ESWM compliance, the 2012 statistics from the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA), showed that only 414 of the 1,610 LGUs nationwide have complied with the national plan.
We understand that it is always challenging to implement a new law, but if every LGU already took that first crucial step of actually trying to do it, maybe we could have already reached 100 percent full compliance rate now.
The fact that there are compliant LGUs, most notably San Fernando City in Pampanga, only means that it is doable and there should be no reason why other LGUs could not follow suit.
It is in this light that I encourage the youth to take part in the Zero Waste campaign. We should strive for a zero waste economy where the output of each resource use is converted into input for another use.
We start at home by avoiding buying unnecessary goods, repairing electronics and appliances, and patronizing recycled products. We must also practice waste segregation at the source and compost biodegradable wastes.
Urge your barangay leaders to implement the law as well by setting up a materials recovery facility and collection system in the barangay or community-level Ecology Centers. Market waste can be processed into compost to generate organic fertilizers for community gardens. We can also develop livelihood programs using recycled waste materials.
In improving air quality, we should support strengthened initiatives towards environment protection, including growing trees, maintaining forest parks, protecting watersheds, using clean and alternative fuel, and using environment-friendly modes of transportation such as walking and cycling, whenever possible.
In closing, I wish to encourage our youth. Good policies are important but it is in the implementation that we can make a real difference. Leaders, young and old, should have the political will to take action.
Do your share. Young as you are, I believe that you are the most active partners in challenging development norms, governance and leadership.
I also wish to laud the Mother Earth Foundation for tirelessly working towards a zero waste Philippines.
I hope that your initiatives would inspire our youth to likewise give nothing less than their wholehearted commitment so that when the next natural hazard strikes, the world will laud us not only for our resilient spirit, but also for our strength and resilience as a community.
Thank you and good morning.