Educating for the Future We Want: Greening Learning Environments in the Philippines SEAMEO INNOTECH’s 13th International Conference

December 13, 2012

Keynote Speech
Educating for the Future We Want: Greening Learning Environments in the Philippines
SEAMEO INNOTECH’s 13th International Conference
EDSA Shangri-La Hotel
December 13, 2012

The population of member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, as of 2011, is pegged at 598,498,000.

This high population, combined with the diversity of cultures and vast natural resources, makes for a region of immense potential. But many challenges face us every day. Most ASEAN countries are either on the Pacific Ring of Fire, the typhoon belt, or both, making us extremely vulnerable to natural hazards. In fact, some of the most devastating disasters have occurred in Southeast Asia, like the Sumatra – Andaman Earthquake in 2004 and the recent floods in Bangkok, Thailand and Metro Manila.

I laud SEAMEO INNOTECH for this initiative of focusing on a “Green Southeast Asia” during this 13th International Conference. Furthermore, your thrust of facilitating “teaching and learning through innovative and technology-based research and training solutions in order to fully develop the potentials of the peoples of Southeast Asia” is already an immense contribution towards the environmental solutions for our region.
I believe that concerted effort from all sectors of society is the only way we will be able to achieve sustainable development. If not, there will be devastating consequences.
A recent study by the Asian Development Bank called the Key Indicators for Asia and the Pacific 2012 showed that the fast rate of urbanization in Asia has been causing environmental degradation with the rise in pollution, more slum areas, and greater economic and social inequalities.
We only need to take a cursory look around us to see that the 4-degree Celsius world, which may have seemed impossible twenty years ago, is not far off today. The World Bank warns us that we are in fact nearing a crisis that if not responded to proactively, will continue to endanger the survival of this and the next generation.
According to the World Bank report, the worse impacts of a 4-degree Celsius global temperature would likely happen if nations would not comply with their commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Such warmer climate would increase sea level by up to 3 feet. Furthermore, it would cause flooding in many coastal cities; dry regions are expected to become drier while wet regions will be wetter; there will be extreme heat waves, water scarcity, stronger tropical cyclones, and loss of biodiversity.
It is important to realize that the changing climate will have its worse effects on the poor. This is why disseminating information and creating awareness about environmental conservation and sustainable development has never been as vital as it is today.
If global mean temperatures exceed 1.5 to 2.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, 30% of all species will face a high risk of extinction.
Furthermore, due to changes in temperature, rainfall and sea level, crop yield is estimated to decline by 19% in Asia toward the end of the century and rice yield, by about 75%. A 2 to 4-degree Celsius rise in global temperature will also result in a 3% decline in global GDP. [6]
Here in our country, through the Philippine Climate Change Act of 2009 and Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act of 2010, both of which I authored, proactive climate change and disaster preparedness measures were legislated. In the Philippine 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, the funds from which shall be allocated for disaster risk reduction and management; biodiversity conservation, sustainable agriculture, fisheries and forestry; renewable and sustainable energy systems; and, ecological waste management.
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.
But beyond these laws the world must act more swiftly, more wisely, and more decisively to build resilience to disasters. Southeast Asia, as a vulnerable region, should take the lead in climate negotiations. Reducing disaster risks is a matter of high importance to the world now, especially to developing countries where disaster risks abound, and to the poor and the marginalized who are most affected by natural hazards.
The key is creating awareness among all people not just in our region, but all over the world. The issue of the environment cuts across age, gender, or ethnicity, and without a united front against disasters and climate change, we could do little to minimize risks.
We must make bold and creative solutions to our problems, and enlist the help of all those we can reach out to. We must combine the power of information technology with our message of environmental conservation and sustainable development.
Now is the time to redefine development – to change our way of thinking and our way of doing, and give nothing less than our wholehearted commitment to a safer world, a more resilient human society for many generations to come.
Thank you very much and I wish all of you an exciting and productive summit.