Legarda: Pursue Sustainable Dev’t to Raise Quality of Life within ASEAN Region

July 15, 2020

Deputy Speaker Loren Legarda yesterday said that the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) must be able to upgrade the management of common environmental resources in order to be socially and economically inclusive for the region’s people, especially for countries in the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) countries whose main drivers of economies are based on natural resources.

Legarda made the statement at the ASEAN Forum on Sub-Regional Development, a virtual gathering of ASEAN Senior Officials Meeting (SOM) Leaders, Mekong SOM Leaders, representatives of relevant agencies from ASEAN countries, representatives from the Mekong River Commission, the United Nations, Asian Development Bank, World Bank, and stakeholders from various countries, held on July 14, 2020. The meeting was hosted by the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, being the Chair of ASEAN 2020.

“Sustainability must be viewed as the indivisibility and inseparability of the region’s environmental goals and actions from the socioeconomic ones. Our current paradigm of progress reflects our desire to uplift the quality of living in the region by boosting socio-economic growth, but neglecting to consider the other part of the sphere—which is the aspect of environmental management,” Legarda said.

Legarda commended the ASEAN for consciously making sustainable development a strategic priority, and for promoting regional development initiatives which complement existing development cooperation frameworks, including the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). She however stressed that with these current findings, the ASEAN should intensify action to jointly address the challenges down to the sub-regions to attain sustainability and improve the region’s suitability for human living.

“I recognize the ASEAN’s potential contribution to shaping the overall direction of development cooperation. It is also time to boost initiatives in pursuing green growth and environmental resilience to sustain our economies’ socio-economic growth without compromising the natural environment,” Legarda said.

“For the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) countries, economic success is anchored on the region’s rich natural resources. However, a steady depletion of natural stocks is resulting in the decline and degradation in ecosystem services and environmental quality, which threatens to undermine sustainable development. Thus, green growth should be pursued to provide greater opportunities for GMS countries to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals,” Legarda added.

Legarda stated that the ASEAN must come up with a fundamental development strategy that would effectively embed sustainability in our environmental strategies and let the region sustain its socioeconomic gains while reducing poverty.

The Deputy Speaker also noted the concerns raised by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP) in their 2020 progress report on the SDGs, which stated that, “the Asia-Pacific region cannot expect to achieve the SDGs by 2030 without accelerated action” and that “[t]he region is making good progress on SDG targets related to economic growth, [but] to grow more sustainably and equitably, the current economic progress of the region must be coupled with human well-being and a healthy environment.”

Legarda pointed out that the challenges have become greater as the uneven distribution of progress across the sub-regions has become evident in the efforts to meet the goals of sustainable development.

“The cultural and political diversities and uneven economic status among the concerned countries are hurdles even if the sub-regions are governed by the same environmental and socioeconomic issues like pockets of poverty. External vested interests and the disparity of responses by the concerned ASEAN economies also undermine what could otherwise be pronounced common benefits for the ASEAN people,” Legarda stated.

“As one region, we must promote inclusive growth, equally boost competitiveness and connectivity, and seek to usher in more equitable development by linking less developed sub-regions with the more developed ones. Harmony and consistency must be constantly ensured between and among regional and national policies, plans, and programs focusing on the pursuit of sustainable development, so that progress in the region is equally extended to the sub-regions,” Legarda concluded.

Legarda is also a Commissioner of the Global Commission on Adaptation (GCA), National Adaptation Plan Champion for United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), and Global Champion for Resilience of the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR).***