Legarda, Experts Call for Science-based Governance as PH makes Headway in Climate Action but fails in other SDGs

February 23, 2021

House Deputy Speaker Loren Legarda, speaking at the first session of the Future Earth Philippines Regional Workshop for Visayas today, called for stronger science-based governance as the Philippines remains on track in Climate Action under Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 13, but could be failing in its pursuit of other SDGs.

“We need to undertake science-based and risk-informed action and investment planning. This is crucial for all our local government units (LGUs) that are at the forefront of the preparation and implementation of local climate action plans. They must be able to know their specific climate risks and vulnerabilities, as a way to inform their actions, policies, and investments within their jurisdictions,” Legarda said.

“We have always considered that adaptation is local, recognizing that our communities bear the brunt of climate impacts and therefore our local leaders must be able to address their risks and vulnerabilities specific to their area, as effectively as possible,” Legarda added.

National Scientist Dr. Lourdes J. Cruz of the National Academy of Science and Technology (NAST), during her presentation on the Future Earth Philippines Program (FEPP), cited a report by the Footprint Network which showed that the Philippines has been running on an “ecological deficit for the past half-century.”

“From the 1960s to 2016, there is a continuous decrease in the biocapacity of the Philippines. From about one global hectare per person we are now down to 0.5. Nangalahati na ang ating biocapacity since 1960 [Our biocapacity has halved since 1960],” Dr. Cruz noted. Biocapacity is the ability ecosystems to provide natural resources and absorb the waste produced by humans.

“Our footprint, which is how much we disturb the environment, has gone from 1 to 1.3 global hectares. So from the period where we had a more or less balanced biocapacity and ecological footprint, we are now in an ecological deficit with a -0.8 global hectares per person deficit,” she added.

Dr. Cruz highlighted the FEPP’s goal to provide scientific and social bases for policies and strengthen citizen action and stakeholder participation. She presented data from the Sustainable Development Report, noting that the country is on track to achieve only two of the 17 SDGs: Climate Action and Poverty. At the same time, it is ranked “stagnating” in six goals, and “decreasing” in two others. The Philippines scored 65.5 in the Report, ranking 99 out of 166 countries.

“We are on track to attaining the 2030 SDGs with respect to No Poverty and Climate Action, but we know very well that although overall our poverty level has gone down, there’s a big disparity in terms of poverty because some provinces and some regions are extremely poor, particularly BARMM and Eastern Visayas, whereas others are doing well,” she added.

“But if you look at Quality Education and Life on Land, bagsak tayo dito [we are failing]. We are really decreasing in our ability to attain the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals. And with the others, we are improving, but not at a rate that is enough to reach the goal by 2030. For us to be resilient, we have to attain or at least approach the Sustainable Development Goals because sustainability and resilience are closely interlinked,” Dr. Cruz emphasized.

As a champion for resilience, Legarda also emphasized the importance of translating knowledge into action during her keynote speech—bringing science into local government interventions, and bringing research to the level of the barangay.

“If only all the 1,600 or more local governments, whether cities or municipalities, would do their city and municipal planning based on science and resilience, and disaster risk reduction and climate adaptation and mitigation, and if all our scientists would share and operationalize and explain up to the barangay level the importance of your research, then we can have more enlightened local governments and more effective local governance,” she added.

Aside from undertaking science-based and risk-informed action and investment planning for local governments, Legarda also stressed the importance of strengthening social protection; conducting an environmental program audit covering the performance of national agencies and LGUs in enforcing environmental laws, regulations, and compliance guidelines; advancing economic and business resilience; and strengthening partnerships and convergence.

“Climate action cannot solely be the government’s responsibility. Each of us has a role to play. At the end of this decade, by 2030, is the deadline of the Sustainable Development Goals and the year our scientists have declared as the closing of the window of opportunity to deflect the catastrophic effects of climate change. This decade is our last chance,” Legarda said.

“Whatever actions we take today will ultimately affect our children and grandchildren. Even if we hand them over all our material wealth, it would not matter if they live in a polluted, uninhabitable, degraded Earth. The path that we will take today will determine the fate of the next generations. Let us not fail them,” Legarda concluded.

The FEP Regional Workshop for Visayas is a two-day workshop held via Zoom with the aim of helping local governments review their development plans, assess the status of development in their jurisdiction, and draft strategies to facilitate their transition towards sustainable development and improved resilience. In attendance are representatives from LGUs, the academe, industry, and other institutions.###