37th Annual Convention and Scientific Session Filipino-Chinese Dental Foundation, Inc.

July 29, 2018

Keynote Address of Senator Loren Legarda
37th Annual Convention and Scientific Session
Filipino-Chinese Dental Foundation, Inc.
July 29, 2018 | Century Park Hotel, Manila


I wish to extend my sincerest appreciation to the Filipino-Chinese Dental Foundation, Inc. (FCDFI) for this honor and opportunity to address you all tonight. My congratulations as well for hosting this 37th Annual Convention and Scientific Session.


Allow me to start by recalling the events in 2011 when Lingkod Loren, a program I spearheaded to provide social service to constituents, conducted an advocacy fair in my hometown, in the City of Malabon. The fair brought together partners from both the public and private sector to provide the residents of Barangays San Agustin, Potrero, and, Tañong with livelihood, feeding, and education programs, as well as medical and dental services, of which the Filipino-Chinese Dental Foundation was a part of.


I could still vividly remember the events that transpired during that day. We led the graduation of trainers of the Bessie B. Legarda Livelihood Program, named after my mother. We also donated books from the Libro ni Loren Foundation to the Malabon National High School, and distributed fruit-bearing seedlings to the barangay residents.


There were also doctors from the National Kidney and Transplant Institute, the Department of Health, Bessie B. Legarda (BBL) Memorial Foundation, and Gift2Life who provided free medical consultation and care, including free breast check-ups.


Of course, there were dentists from your foundation who did what you do best: put smiles on everyone’s faces.


A great number of people took the time and effort to provide support and service to the residents. Professionals by nature, they went over and beyond what was expected from them. The spirit of volunteerism and nation building was incredibly high, as they gave back to the communities.


Tonight, as we lead the induction of the incoming set of officers of your foundation, may we also instill in them the very same spirit of public service that we could always count on from the officers and members of FCFDI.


Your foundation has always stayed true for what you aspire for the Filipino people: providing reliable, efficient, and excellent oral health education, as well as dental and related services to our people.


More than just dental practitioners, you have selflessly devoted your time, skills, and resources through your various socio-civic activities for the marginalized sectors of our society. But what I find very admirable is how your officers and members have continuously engaged themselves in outreach services, as an important element of their professional and personal growth.


It is my hope that the FCFDI, with your noble mission to improve the quality of life of those in need of your service, continues to nurture dental practitioners who have in them a strong commitment to professional excellence and heart for public service.


I am also aware that some of the recent activities that your foundation is undertaking are programs on tree planting and waste management—both of which are causes that advance the environmental agenda. Allow me to share a few insights and suggestions on how we could help each other in this regard.


Even before I first ran for the Senate in 1998, I had already espoused environmental protection as my personal advocacy. When I decided to run with environmental agenda as the top item in my platform, some people told me I would not win a seat in the Senate perhaps because I was championing an advocacy that was not appealing to nor popular among the pollsters. But I proved them wrong. For that year, as well as my reelection year in 2007 when I espoused the climate change advocacy, I topped the senatorial race in both years.


What I realized was that the people also recognized how crucial environment protection actually is in our daily lives—that protecting our natural resources also means promoting our economy, food security, livelihood, health, shelter, peace, resilience, sustainability, and even culture and the arts.


Therefore, all throughout my term as Senator, I passed measures that supported this very advocacy. I principally authored and sponsored laws, such as the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act and the Climate Change Act, which created the Climate Change Commission (CCC). Its amendatory law, the People’s Survival Fund, annually allocates one billion pesos for local climate change adaptation projects.


I also co-authored the Environmental Awareness Education Act and the Green Jobs Act and co-sponsored the Philippine Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act, aside from the numerous environmental projects and programs I have supported as Chair of the Senate Committee on Finance.


However, as they say, laws are only good on paper until they are strictly enforced. The Ecological Solid Waste Management (ESWM) Act, in particular, has a low implementation rate among our local government units.


The ESWM law seeks to promote a clean and healthy environment through the segregation of waste at source, recycling and composting. By mandating the establishment of zero waste programs in all local government units, we had hoped to minimize wastes that end up in our water systems, into the rivers and out in the sea.


While majority of our LGUs have yet to fully enforce this law, there are a number of exemplary cities that already provide zero waste solutions, which are cost effective, accessible and doable. One example is the City of San Fernando in Pampanga which, in partnership with the Mother Earth Foundation (MEF), has generated the highest waste diversion rate of 78%. Waste diversion rate represents the amount of waste that is diverted from the landfill for recycling purposes.


The city’s waste management system involves the hiring of “eco-aides” or trash pickers to monitor waste segregation at each household; training of non-compliant communities on segregation; and the use of tricycles and pushcarts for daily collection, effectively reducing truck collection to only twice per week.


The city also ensured that each of its 35 barangays had a well-functioning materials recovery facility (MRF)—a crucial component to reduce, collect, compost, and recycle wastes that would otherwise end up polluting both land and sea.


As of 2017, over 10,000 MRFs were reported to have been established all over the country. Your foundation’s efforts on waste management will certainly help spur action from our local government units on reducing pollution.


Furthermore, your tree planting initiatives will help achieve the targets under the National Greening Program (NGP), which is spearheaded by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).


From 2011 to 2016, the National Greening Program has posted an accomplishment of 1.7 million hectares planted and is targeting 1.2 million hectares more for the period of 2017 to 2022. Executive Order No. 193 in 2015 expanded the coverage of this program to include the remaining 7.1 million hectares of unproductive, denuded and degraded forestlands nationwide until 2028.


The NGP continues to be a vital component of our government’s environment and climate change agenda because trees and forests also act as carbon sinks and also help improve air quality. More than just a reforestation initiative, however, the NGP could also help address our people’s needs and support their aspirations by providing livelihood opportunities and the resources they need for their communities.


Protecting the environment entails addressing manmade pollution, degradation, and climate change. It is safeguarding our finite natural resources for the benefit of our children and future generations. As daunting as the task may be, I am confident to have a partner in your foundation in this cause.


We share the same principle that we Filipinos cannot and should not exist in isolation—that even though we may all have different professions in life, we should always respond to the call to help our people and to help build our nation.


For many decades now, the FCDFI has done so, and I hope our country could still count on your dedication and service for our fellow Filipinos in the years and decades to come.


Thank you very much and good evening.