Legarda: ASEAN Should Be the Voice of the Vulnerable

May 18, 2018

Senator Loren Legarda today said that members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) should unite in pushing for greater climate action and more green investments towards sustainable and resilient growth.

Speaking at the 5th Singapore Dialogue on Sustainable World Resources (SDSWR) for the panel session, “How ASEAN Governments are Shifting to Green Growth,” Legarda said that the ASEAN should be the voice of the vulnerable, stressing that despite threats posed by climate change to ASEAN countries, the region has the potential to address these challenges by pursuing green growth.

“The ASEAN community should lead by example and inspire the rest of the world to carry out their responsibilities and deliver on what is expected from them and more,” said Legarda, who chairs the Senate Committees on Foreign Relations, Finance and Climate Change.

The Senator stressed that, for the Philippines, climate action is a matter of survival. According to the 2018 Global Climate Risk Index of Germanwatch, the Philippines ranked 5th in the list of countries most affected by climate change for the period of 1997 to 2016. This entails an annual average loss of 2.89 billion US dollars or 0.6% of the country’s GDP within the last two decades.

Three other ASEAN countries are also included in the same list: Myanmar at number 3; Viet Nam at the 8th spot; and Thailand ranking 9th.

Moreover, the ASEAN Region, which heavily relies on agriculture, has experienced a downward trend in rainfall from 1960 to 2000 and rise in sea levels to 1 to 3 millimeters per year, as well as more intense and more frequent heat waves, droughts, floods, and tropical cyclones.  Projected economic losses include a decline of up to 50 percent of rice yield potential by 2100 and a loss of 6.7 percent of combined gross domestic product (GDP) each year by 2100.

In line with this, Legarda shared how the Philippines is working towards low-carbon development, stressing that the country “embraces adaptation and mitigation because our lives truly depend on it.”

“However, we contend with what limited resources on finance, technology, and capacity that we have. While we acknowledge that the means of implementation of the Paris Agreement will be critical in order to unlock the full potential of our country’s resilience, it will be a disservice to the millions of Filipinos if we wait for these means to become available before deciding to take action,” she said.

She explained that the Philippines already has the enabling environment for this green transformation to transpire and prosper.

The Philippine Development Plan (PDP) encourages the transitioning of critical sectors by promoting and supporting green technology innovations; climate-smart infrastructure and designs; and low-carbon and energy-efficient urban transport systems.

As for legislation, the Philippines has enacted laws for clean air, clean water, Ecological Solid Waste Management (ESWM), rainwater catchment facilities, renewable energy, and other measures that protect the environment and address climate change and disasters.

Furthermore, the Philippine Green Jobs Act, which is the first in the world, will support the transformation of sectors by promoting the creation of green jobs and fostering a just transition towards a green economy.

“We are working with development partners to establish the Green Jobs Standards, Accreditation, and Certification System, which will streamline the processes for businesses applying for accreditation or certification, as well as provide incentives for green practices,” she said.

Legarda also stressed the importance of ensuring that the national budget is one that supports sustainable growth. “Many, if not all, of our plans and strategies for climate action and green growth will remain as ideas if there is no appropriate budget to implement them. This is why, for three budget cycles in a row, we have enshrined climate change adaptation and mitigation, as well as disaster risk reduction, in the budgets of our government agencies, especially those dealing at the frontlines.”

The Senator emphasized that these efforts are also part of the country’s commitment to achieving the Paris Agreement goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

She said that countries’ Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) will be crucial in sustaining green growth, thus, encouraging ASEAN countries to ensure that their NDCs are compatible with the 1.5 degrees Celsius goal.

“As one region, we need to carry the voice of the vulnerable. We can no longer remain silent. We must further demand for a planet where not just the ASEAN community but all communities around the world could truly prosper. We do not exist in isolation of each other. Whether industrialized or developing, we should all realize that we are on this one planet together. The transformation towards green growth is an uphill battle, but it is one crusade that we must all fight and win,” Legarda concluded.