Inaugural Speech of Hon. Loren Legarda

June 27, 2022



June 27, 2022

San Jose de Buenavista, Antique


Magandang umaga.  Mayad nga aga!


Twenty-four years ago, I entered the halls of Congress, with a mandate from the Filipino people as Senator of the Republic. That was in 1998; I was 38 years old and a novice in the political arena. Since then, I have worked for 21 years— 18 years or 3 terms in the Senate, and 3 years as Congresswoman of the lone district of Antique.


It has been tremendously fulfilling but it is an ongoing journey, an enduring one because today marks my 22nd year as your lawmaker. I stand honored and proud before you to accept my mandate once again, to be your Senator for the 4th time, the most senior in terms of tenure.


I once said that my education at the University of the Philippines and the National Defense College of the Philippines, my two decades of work as a journalist prepared me for the Senate, and that my three terms in the Senate readied me for public service in Antique. And what did the past three years teach me? I dare say: the three years I devoted to serving my home province have reminded me of what I came here for. It was indeed an arduous, daunting, challenging, but opportune time to be a Congresswoman. I served Antique precisely when the world was stricken by a global health crisis that exacted an enormous economic toll on humanity.


I saw firsthand the crippling consequences of the pandemic.


I witnessed how my kasimanwas desperately grappled with the challenges—from looking for income, medicine, and food to coping with isolation and uncertainty.


Today, as I return in the Senate, I realize that while we tirelessly worked and successfully enacted laws, established programs, and ushered in policies, these must be translated into tangible benefits for the nation, and for our countrymen. We may have tossed the pebble into the water but its ripples must extend to the farthest reaches: the countryside; the grassroots; the poorest of the poor; and the most vulnerable.


I asked myself again: What ails our country? Because while we advocated, shepherded, and enacted laws on health, education, livelihood, the environment, and social services, our people are still in dire need of help.


What continues to plague us? How do we translate laws into substantial benefits that would extend to the farthest reaches of our 7,107 islands? How do we recover from the afflictions of the last few years, the twin crises of climate change and the pandemic?


Trabaho at pangkabuhayan. Ito ang dapat nating patuloy na isulong lalo na’t hindi pa tapos ang ating laban sa kasalukuyang pandemya at sa krisis ng klima. 


Please allow me to run through some of the initiatives that are in my heart and mind as I prepare for my bigger role in nation-building.



First, the pathway toward pandemic recovery is through the economic empowerment of every Filipino. In 2008, I shepherded the enactment of the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME) Act or Republic Act 9501. MSMEs account for 99.51% of our nation’s businesses, and the sector is responsible for an estimated 5,380,815 jobs or 62.66% of the country’s total employment. While they make up the overwhelming majority of businesses in the country, MSMEs are also the most vulnerable to economic shocks.


As the principal sponsor and author of the MSME Law, I believe that our development should be pursued with the end goal that everyone should benefit from the country’s economic gains. Progress should not only be measured by the country’s infrastructure or urban development alone: the number of highways, airports, ports, flyovers, buildings, or shopping centers. Instead, we should measure our advancement by looking at the quality of life, the welfare, and well-being, of each and every Filipino.


I have witnessed the untapped possibilities of millions of Filipinos: weavers, entrepreneurs, indigenous communities, and cultural creatives. There is so much potential for growth in our rural areas. We need to expand our reach to include local entrepreneurs and indigenous communities, and ensure that everyone benefits from government programs such as the MSME Law.


I would also like to promote green jobs and green skills in the country. We put much focus on retail, wholesale, service and manufacturing. Let us also encourage our people to engage in agriculture, forestry, horticulture, information technology, creative industries, and other careers that contribute to environmental and cultural preservation.


During my last three years as Congresswoman of Antique, I attested to the vital role of MSMEs in employment generation, economic growth, and cultural identity or environmental protection.   My visits to the countryside also made me realize that safeguarding our identity and our beliefs, whether tangible or intangible, is as crucial as the economic and political affairs of nations.


Panay, for example, is filled with cultural treasures. The region has exquisite weaving, and unique eco-tourism and cultural tourism. We have established several weaving centers nationwide; we have conducted trade fairs to promote our local products. With the support of government, and the full implementation of the MSME Law, these MSMEs became powerful platforms for the promotion of viable rural livelihoods, for cultural preservation, for the socio-economic empowerment of indigenous peoples, and even for environmental protection.



In light of our fight against this unprecedented health crisis, we have to bolster the efficiency of the health sector as part of our vital investments in our human capital. We need the full implementation of the Universal Health Care Act or Republic Act No. 11223. The law automatically enrolls all Filipinos in the National Health Insurance Program and guarantees equitable access to quality and affordable healthcare services and protection against financial risk.


The Universal Health Care Act was approved in 2019. It has been three years since and yet Filipinos are still desperately trying to gain access to the assistance intended for them. There is still inequity in our healthcare system. 


More than this, we also have to make sure that healthcare facilities are available and fully equipped and that there are a sufficient number of health workers to effectively cater to the medical and health needs of our estimated 109 million population.


In Antique, for example, we were able to ensure that the construction, rehabilitation, and expansion of the nine local hospitals are under the DOH Health Facilities Enhancement Program.


The benefits Filipinos get from the UHC Law may be deemed useless if we do not have health facilities and infrastructure—or professionals—that can keep up with technological advancements and cope with the threat of new and emerging diseases.



Most importantly, we must take care of nature. The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the extent to which the health and well-being of everyone depends on the health and well-being of nature.


Our goal should be to achieve an equitable carbon-neutral, nature-positive economic recovery, and a sustainable regenerative future.


We need a more proactive and integrated approach to fight epidemics and climate change. But we now know that alongside investments in research and healthcare, we need to address the problem at its root: the destruction of nature. To save ourselves, we must save nature. Protecting nature is our fundamental, optimum, and most cost-effective line of defense against future pandemics and climate change.


Since 1998, I have legislated numerous important environmental laws. I would like to urge both Houses of Congress to ensure that the national budget is a pandemic recovery budget, but one that is aligned with, and attuned to, the climate path. There is no recovery from Covid-19 unless we attack it on the issue of environment and climate. Also, rather than just “Building Back Better,” we must focus firmly on the future and BUILD RIGHT AT FIRST SIGHT.


I hope to develop additional legislative responses utilizing a “Build with Nature” approach, as we move towards a shift in paradigm: from fighting against nature to working with it. Nature-based solutions will be the new currency as the world works towards resilience. The key is involving local communities and other stakeholder groups in both the design and implementation of plans. We must provide incentives to the community to act as local custodians of the forests, the ocean, and the mangroves, or offer climate-resilient livelihoods linked to the management of ecosystems.


I would like to see these laws in action, resulting in increased awareness among citizens, and our national and local government leaders. I would like to ensure crucial lifestyle changes such as the implementation of plastic bans, waste segregation, disaster preparedness, geohazard mapping, regenerative agriculture, sustainable tourism, and even the dawn of slow-fashion, reusable and recycled bags, eco-modes of transportation, green buildings, and business opportunities in recycling.


Climate change, as I have explained numerous times, is not merely an environmental issue. It is an all-encompassing threat to our basic human rights—the right to food, water, health, shelter, decent livelihood, and life itself.


The last few years have just shown us how we are living in the world with great fragility and complexity. We must contend with the constant dangers posed by the pandemic, the rising inequality among people, and the threats of climate change, the energy crisis, overpopulation and food security. It will be our task to respond to this new and changing world. Together, let us rise from the pandemic and survive the climate crisis. Again, ask yourselves, “What ails the Filipino? What ails the nation?


Twenty-four years ago, I entered the halls of the Senate with sheer determination to make a difference in the lives of every Filipino man, woman and child.  Today, I return, knowing that I have come full circle. I am humbled by the overwhelming mandate I have received from the Filipino people and I am overflowing with gratitude. Like the past twenty-four years, I will carry and keep ablaze the torch of unity, reform and good governance alongside the new leadership.


Maraming salamat. Daghang salamat. Madamo gid nga salamat. Duro-duro gid nga salamat.