Legarda renews call to climate action; urges lawmakers, LGUs to enact policies restoring ecosystems

January 26, 2021

MANILA, 26 January 2021 — Deputy Speaker Loren Legarda strongly urged her fellow lawmakers in the Congress to protect and revive ecosystems in the country by pushing for laws to ban single-use plastics and manage segregation of waste, and aligning government programs to support nature-based solutions to address the climate crisis.

In a privilege speech before the House plenary, Legarda lamented the worsening effects of climate change and economic shocks from the pandemic which set back the country in achieving goals on sustainable and resilient development.

“Our planet has been sick for more than a century and a half, which started when we began to burn fossil fuels that released harmful greenhouse gas emissions. This altered our climate and brought about extreme weather events, increasing temperatures, and rising seas. But this planet we call home is not beyond saving,” Legarda stressed.

In observance of the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, Legarda, a United Nations global climate champion, urged for rapid action from her fellow lawmakers to combat planetary threats and take this decade as an opportunity to deflect the catastrophic effects of climate change.

“This decade is our last chance. I want this august chamber to express its full support to this global movement and join the global call for all nations and citizens across the world to protect and revive ecosystems for the sake of our environment, our Earth, and our future,” Legarda added.

Legarda lauded the move of US President Joe Biden to rejoin the Paris Agreement, which according to Legarda, will certainly boost the pace and progress on global climate action and give more depth to ongoing climate discussions, such as the Global Commission on Adaptation’s Climate Adaptation Summit that conveys the need to accelerate and scale up climate efforts at the global and local levels.

On plastic pollution, the 3 term senator and now Deputy Speaker highlighted the importance of proper waste segregation and research on alternatives to prevent more single-use plastics from causing threats to public health, the environment, and marine life and biodiversity. Plastic products also worsen global warming and climate change due to the amount of fossil fuels used in the production and transportation.

Legarda earlier filed a bill that would regulate the importation, sale and use of single-use plastics, in addition to several bills pending in both chambers that ban and mandate an extended producer’s responsibility.

“We used and discarded about 164 million pieces of sachets in 2019. All the more that we should ensure that we have the mechanisms in place for the proper segregation and disposal of waste. All the more that we need to research and find alternatives to these single-use plastics that harm our environment and health,” Legarda stressed.

Following the massive devastation from three successive typhoons (Quinta, Rolly, and Ulysses), Legarda renewed the call for more support for nature-based solutions, interventions, and policies to protect the ecosystems and resources back to their pristine state, including the Sierra Madre mountains, which act as a natural buffer from the rains and winds of these typhoons. With the successive battering and the environmental degradation, these ecosystems lost the ability to protect and safeguard the communities who depended on it, according to Legarda.

“We still find ourselves at a juncture where global carbon emissions continue to rise, which spells greater danger for a country like ours that strives to do its best to address our risks as a highly climate vulnerable country,” said Legarda

In response to this, Legarda will file a resolution urging all departments to assess every expenditure based on how much it will help restore ecosystems.

“I am calling on all agencies of government, if you have not aligned your budgets towards ecosystem restoration and nature-based solutions to the climate emergency, you are failing in your obligation. If your structure and mandate is preventing you from complying with what is needed to face a climate emergency, let us work to change it,“ Legarda noted.

She also urged her fellow lawmakers and local government units to perform the oversight and scale up climate financing by leveraging domestic budget to effectively implement and deliver the national climate change agenda, and pave the way for a broad, strong financing strategy.

“In a crisis, do not throw your money away on hauling and tipping fees, or on the infrastructure that will be next to useless in 2030 if we fail in our task. Social development that lessens our vulnerability to the coming threats, infrastructure that serves the people and not vehicles, and urban planning that creates green open spaces will make us withstand not just pandemics, but also climate-induced severe weather events.” Legarda added.

Legarda also challenged the public, particularly the homemakers and millennials, to start climate action in their homes by reducing waste and practicing sustainability.

“You can look at any land, backyard, waterway, or sidewalk and work on that. Create soil from your own biodegradable wastes, take your protective and restorative claim on one square meter, then make it two, and continue hectare upon hectare until we have restored a thriving and living planet,” Legarda suggested.

She also called on software developers to collaborate to launch an app that targets to identify and restore the health of ecosystems, similar to the UN Portal.

“After ten years, I hope I will no longer have to plead with anybody and will only have to congratulate ourselves for a job well done. We have to hand over a planet that lives and thrives under our loving care,” Legarda said.
Echoing and sharing the advocacies of Legarda, Rep. Edgar M. Chatto, Chair of the House Committee on Climate Change and Kabataan Partylist Rep. Sarah Elago expressed their support and commitment in addressing and responding to the challenges of plastic pollution and climate crisis.

“The Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000 may have been around for two decades already, yet, we still contribute to the seemingly insurmountable problem of managing solid waste. Our climate crisis too, continues to worsen. I hope that following the House of Representatives’ declaration of climate and environmental emergency, we will be able to cascade down environmental laws from the national government to the local government units, and be able to better manage our municipal solid wastes starting from the grassroots. Then perhaps, soon, we can truly celebrate Zero Waste Month every month of January. For the remainder of its month, in celebration of Zero Waste Month, I hope everyone will be reminded of the need to be mindful of the waste they create,” said Chatto.

“We must commit to raise our voices to inspire active and meaningful participation from all sectors of society. We must dedicate raising our voices, to add to the voices of the marginalized and vulnerable peoples, and leave no one behind. For all these reasons, I dare say, challenge accepted. It is imperative to persist through these challenges, through raising our voices amid the pandemic and climate crisis. I strongly believe that we can build back better. We must put people and planet first,” said Elago. ######