State of Climate Action: The Philippine Scenario

January 23, 2023

Privilege Speech
Senate President Pro Tempore
Senate of the Philippines
State of Climate Action: The Philippine Scenario

Mr. President, distinguished colleagues:

The Philippines is now the country with the highest disaster risk in the world.

The World Risk Report 2022 assessed the level of exposure, susceptibility, and lack of coping and adaptive capacities of countries from disaster and climate risks and hazards and we came out as the most vulnerable.

This is no longer new to us. Year after year, we’ve ranked high among the countries most at-risk of disasters and climate change – a reminder of both our natural situation and our vulnerability.

Mulat na tayo sa epekto nito sa Pilipino at sa ating ekonomiya. Napapawalang-saysay ang deka-dekada nating aksyon upang maitaas ang antas ng buhay ng bawat pamilyang Pilipino at mapalago ang ekonomiya dahil sa matitinding bagyo, tagtuyot, pagbaha, pagguho ng lupa, at iba pang mga delubyo’t sakuna. Mula nitong Disyembre, may shear line na nagdulot ng baha sa Mindanao at hindi pa nga nakakabangon ay tuloy pa rin ang baha doon.

Taun-taon, PHP506.1 billion ang nawawala sa atin dahil sa mga sakunang ito. Katumbas na iyan ng pinagsamang budget ng DOH at ng DSWD para sa 2023. Kung gaano man kalaking halaga ang matitipid kung tayo ay mas handa ay maari na sanang mailaan sa iba pa nating pangangailangan.

Unfortunately, climate events are not single, unrelated disasters. With each devastation, our vulnerabilities multiply, reverberating through all aspects of human life and biodiversity and bringing us closer to multiple ecosystem points of no return.These effects have a feedback loop that makes succeeding effects that much worse.

Whenever we assess damage to crops and infrastructure from disasters, we fail to take into account the damage to ecosystems. Ravaged forests and coral reefs have much reduced capacity to provide services such as water retention, flood prevention, cultivar sources, air filtration, carbon sequestration and others. Moreover, due to the sea level rise, each passing day, my dear colleagues, we risk losing our coastlines and entire islands. We will lose entire cities and townships along the coasts if we do not succeed, resulting in chaos. This fact needs to be integral to all planning.

In 2009, we passed the Climate Change Act, and followed it up with the People’s Survival Fund in 2012. Despite their best efforts reducing requirements and assisting in proposal development, the CCC has only been able to approve one third of the initial allocation from 11 years ago. This fund should not be a wasted opportunity.

On Nationally Determined Contributions

Mr. President and distinguished colleagues:

Our country needs climate finance to build our defenses and safeguard every Filipino from climate impacts. But we also need climate finance to transition our economy and society towards low carbon development and growth, the kind that would mitigate global warming and the intensity of climate change.

Thus in 2021, the Philippines submitted its first Nationally Determined Contribution or NDC, conveying a 75% greenhouse gas emissions reduction and avoidance target by 2030 for the agriculture, waste, industry, transport, and energy sectors. Of this target, almost 3% is unconditional, or will be undertaken using domestic resources, while the rest is conditional, or will be implemented through support for technology development and transfer, capacity building, and climate finance by developed countries, as mandated by the Paris Agreement.

Indeed, we have an ambitious NDC despite our negligible contribution to global GHG emissions. But need to look at these commitments as investment plans, a massive opportunity for us to have the long view, modernize our sectors and transform our society past the climate crisis.

Consider how we could make our industries and households run on cheap and clean renewable energy and not on imported fossil fuels, or how we could reinvent our car-centric transport sector to deploy more inclusive low-carbon public vehicles and mass transport systems, or how agriculture can thrive on natural fertility and microbiomes not reliant on imports. Think of a life without disposables and planned obsolescence and of reversing the pollution they bring to us and the living environment. Think of the sustainable practices and products that could become economic opportunities in a changed world. Change is inevitable and we have to use the momentum of how fast things are changing to ride that tide and chart the direction of our nation’s future.

On COP27 Outcomes

Mr. President, Colleagues:

World leaders and country delegations spent two weeks in November last year discussing the implementation of the 2015 Paris agreement to keep global warming from breaching 1.5 degrees Celsius from pre-industrial levels, and providing support to vulnerable developing countries, such as ours. It was already the 27th COP of the UNFCCC.

While certain decisions (or non-decisions) are still lacking, the COP nevertheless made history as countries finally agreed to operationalize funding arrangements to address loss and damage. It took thirty years for the Parties to the UNFCCC to reach this decision, but it is better late than never. We can now hope that as the details are fleshed out, our situation as most vulnerable will open the tap for funds to come in to help us recover and shift to climate resilient development.

This loss and damage fund cannot bring back what we have lost in terms of lives, livelihoods, assets, and opportunities, but just like post war reparations, these will help get us on an appropriate development track. Loss and damage are now enshrined as the third pillar of climate action, alongside mitigation and adaptation.

At COP27, the Philippines was also able to advance national interests by progressively phasing out subsidies for fossil fuels, promoting renewable energies, reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, and non-market approaches to climate action.
Our country recently joined the High Ambition Coalition (HAC) for Nature and People. The commitment of the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to joining the HAC has set an aspiration of protecting at least 30% of the world’s land and ocean, through increased public and private financing, to ensure long-term management and local governance, and clear implementation mechanisms to nature so we can recover ecosystems by the year 2030. This target was adopted by the Conference of Parties in another critical Convention — the Convention on Biodiversity or CBD. In COP 15 of the CBD, state parties also agreed on major shifts in societies necessary to halt mass extinction.

This is consistent with the United Nation’s declaration of this decade as one for Ecological Restoration. Not surprisingly, 2030 is also the target for reaching our Sustainable Development Goals. We have very little time and I urge this august chamber to think about these goals in every piece of legislation we craft as we transition to survive and thrive past the climate crisis.

On this note, I wish to thank the Philippine Delegations for both CoPs, headed by Environment Secretary Ma. Antonia Yulo-Loyzaga and representatives from the DENR, CCC, DA, DFA, DOE, NEDA, and civil society, for relentlessly pushing for better targets and making developed nations deliver on their commitments.

While I commend the delegations, I also urge our leaders to make good on their climate pronouncements. We are way past the point when we can pay lip service to mitigation and adaptation and still avoid blame. We all carry the burden of a just energy transition but we in government need to show the way.

Mr. President, colleagues;

Our work in this battle against climate change, considered the greatest existential threat to all of humanity, continues. It is inextricably linked to the biodiversity crisis and there is no time to lose.

I want all of us—as legislators who pass laws, conduct oversight, and allocate budget—to embrace the critical role we play in this global climate emergency.

Our work in the Senate in this 19th Congress will be a testament to our commitment to improving the lives of every Filipino and safeguarding our nation’s future in light of the growing challenges amid this climate crisis. Buhay, kabuhayan, at kinabukasan ang nakataya. Hindi na pwedeng hindi kaya dahil kailangan.

Mr. President and colleagues, the people have placed their utmost trust and confidence in all of us.

Let’s not waste this opportunity to do good, to do what is right, and in all our endeavors imagine a different future past this twin crisis of climate and biodiversity collapse.

Thank you. Mabuhay. [END]