“Kababaihan Para sa Katarungan at Kalikasan”

March 7, 2013

“Kababaihan Para sa Katarungan at Kalikasan”

Philippine Women Judges Association’s National Convention

Oriental Hotel, Palo, Leyte

March 7, 2013

I wish to thank the officers and members of the Philippine Women Judges Association for inviting me to speak about the environment, which is now greatly affected by the changing climate that we are experiencing.

As we are celebrating Women’s Month, allow me to talk about the vital role of women in protecting our environment and making our communities disaster-resilient and adaptive to climate change, and at the same time, our greater vulnerability in the face of these situations .

Women and girls account for 52% of the world’s population, over 100 million of which are affected by disasters annually.[1]

According to a report from the International Union for Conservation of Nature and the Women’s Environment and Development Organization, women made up 90% of the 140,000 people who died in a 1991 hurricane in Bangladesh. African-American women made up the majority of those killed and injured by Hurricane Katrina in the United States, and in the 2006 tsunami that killed scores in Indonesia and Sri Lanka, male survivors outnumbered the female survivors, in a 3 to 1 or 4 to 1 ratio.[2]

During these times of disaster and economic stress, women are the primary caregivers as well. They bear the burden of caring for the sick. They also carry out much of the household workload in the aftermath.

Despite these, women have been silently and effectively at the frontline of disaster prevention and climate change adaptation efforts.

We take inspiration from the work of the late Professor Wangari Maathai, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate in 2004. The Green Belt Movement, which she founded, has planted over 51 million trees in Kenya and empowered communities, especially women and girls, to promote environmental protection at the grassroots level.

The Philippines can be proud of similar initiatives that are based on local realities. A group of women farmers in Montalban, Rizal started to practice agroforestry to adapt to the prolonged wet season. A group of women fisherfolk in Hinatuan, Surigao del Sur reforested over a hundred hectares of mangrove areas to protect their settlements from storm surges and secure an additional source of food for their families.

In the Municipality of San Francisco in Camotes Island, Cebu, which is one of the United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction’s 29 model communities worldwide that are exemplars in disaster risk reduction and management, 90% of officers in charge of environmental protection and disaster prevention programs in each and every purok are women, since most of the male residents are focused on making a living for their families. The Purok System focuses on mobilizing local resources in creating local and practical solutions based on the vulnerability and unique needs of every community. The program includes the “no trash segregation – no collection” policy.

I am certain that behind the success of other model LGUs such as Makati City, Albay, and Bulacan are thousands of women actively involved in community leadership and decision-making. Makati City and Albay also received international recognition for best practices by the UN while Bulacan was recently awarded as the Best Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council in the National Gawad Kalasag 2012.

Women should lead and persevere in the efforts to curb climate change and help push for gender-responsive legislation and programs related to climate change and disaster risk reduction.

Through the Philippine Climate Change Act of 2009 and Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act of 2010, which I both authored, proactive climate change and disaster preparedness measures have been legislated. In the 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. I am also relentlessly 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.

We need strengthened efforts in building a disaster-resilient nation as part of the campaign for climate justice, because it is clear injustice that the most vulnerable to climate change belong to the poorest groups who lack the resources and means to cope with the impacts of extreme weather events.

The Philippines is among the countries that are seeking for commitment from industrialized nations, which are the greatest emitters of greenhouse gas, to reduce their carbon emissions and provide support for climate change adaptation work in vulnerable countries.

Industrialized countries have a historical responsibility for climate change and are morally obliged to financially and technologically assist developing countries in their efforts to reduce their vulnerability and adapt to the consequences, while reducing their own greenhouse gas emissions.

Climate change is clearly not only about floods. It is about food, water, shelter, jobs and livelihood. It is about human welfare and security, poverty reduction and sustainable development.

In the past three years, the cost of damages from typhoons has increased every year. The total cost of damages brought by destructive typhoons in 2010 was Php12-billion or 0.22% of our GDP; in 2011, it was Php27-billion or 0.46% of our GDP; and in 2012, it was Php39-billion or 0.62% of our GDP.[3]

As we remind world leaders of their responsibilities to lead our people out of the crises and uncertainties brought about by climate change, we in our country must resolve to quickly move policy into action.

Women are powerful agents of change in the overall climate change adaptation and mitigation efforts. We know this and we have a track record to prove this.

To help us in this endeavor, we have worked to ensure that the rights of women are guaranteed by the State through Republic Act 9710, or the Magna Carta of Women, which I co-authored. These rights include, among many others:

The protection from all forms of violence and in times of disaster and other crisis situations;

The assurance of participation and representation of women in decision- and policy-making processes both in the public and private sectors;

Equal access and non-discrimination in education, scholarships, training and in employment; and,

Provision of comprehensive health services and health information and education.

Let us fully engage women in vulnerability assessments, tap their knowledge of environmental resources, and work with women’s community organizations.

Let us recognize and empower women, who are agents of solutions, indispensable holders of valuable knowledge and skills, and able leaders from the grassroots level to the global stage.

Let it be said, that during our time, during our watch, we did our share. And maybe, just maybe, we will make a little difference.

Thank you and good day.***