Message of Deputy Speaker Loren Legarda Ecosummit 2020 (December 12, 2020)

December 22, 2020



On Climate Action and Accountability: The Journey towards

Environmental Justice

12 December 2020

Zoom Digital Meeting Platform

Good afternoon. 

To Fr. Joel Tabora, Ateneo de Davao University President; Ms. Theresa Salaver Eliab, Director of Office of the Student Affairs; Administrators of Ateneo de Davao; fellow House Representative Edgar Chatto; resource speakers and guests; Ms. Samantha Claire Cayona, Lead Convenor of Ecosummit 2020;  Technical Working Group of Ecosummit; Officers of the SAMAHAN Central Board; and to all our Ecosummit Delegates, a pleasant afternoon. 

Let me also extend my sincerest gratitude to the officers and members of the Samahan ng mga Mag-aaral ng Pamantasan ng Ateneo de Davao for this honor to speak in this inaugural Ecosummit.

The climate crisis is no longer a specter on the horizon. Its disastrous effects are not looming or impending. They are happening now, and they will only get worse if we do not take action.

We have been on the receiving end of these extreme weather events at the expense of our fellow Filipinos’ lives, livelihood, and resources. Indeed, climate-related disasters are undoing years of development gains.

These past weeks have been very particularly challenging for all of us, as our country was hit by three typhoons just days apart from each other. Quinta, Rolly, and Ulysses massively destroyed infrastructure and agricultural lands and submerged our communities in floodwater.

Scientists agree that the root cause of the climate emergency is human activity. Large concentrations of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the atmosphere, which trap more heat from the sun, has resulted in global warming and this state of climate crisis.

We face a daunting challenge now in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, but in order to protect our vulnerable communities, we need to push for a pandemic recovery that also strives for climate resilience.

Our country is no stranger to the impacts of climate change. But averting loss and damage and coping in the aftermath of these extreme weather events, which have become more intense and damaging in the last decade, are an additional burden against limited resources of a developing, fast growing nation.

The Philippines ranked fourth among countries most affected by climate change from 1999 to 2018 in the 2020 Global Climate Risk Index by the Germanwatch. In those two decades, we lost an annual average of 0.5% of our GDP due to climate change impacts.

Moreover, according to PAGASA, the observed temperature in the country is projected to increase by as much as 0.9°C to 2.3°C by 2050, entailing drastic changes in weather patterns, increase in frequency, intensity and duration of floods, and increase in frequency and intensity of droughts.

Sea level rise in the country is projected to be at 60 centimeters or three times the global average of 19 centimeters, with about 60 percent of our local government units at risk of storm surges, flashfloods, and saltwater intrusion. Four major cities in the Philippines, including Davao, are all located in coastal areas.

Historically, deadly storm surge events in the country have been recorded including those events caused by Typhoon Pablo in Cateel, Boston, and Baganga in Davao Oriental that killed a thousand people in 2012. 

In the 2017 Philippine Climate Change Assessment Report of the Climate Change Commission, regions in Northern Luzon and Mindanao, including Davao del Sur and Davao del Norte, are areas experiencing seasonal aridity and recurrent droughts and manifest conditions and effects of desertification processes.

The mean daily temperature in these areas, which ranges from 30 to 35°C and with relative humidity of 70 to 80%, induces depletion of soil organic matter and significant water loss. Thus, in prolonged dry periods, soil and water resources in these areas are not able to support crop production.

PAGASA also projects that, by 2050, Mindanao will be drier than normal and that large decreases in rainfall and longer drier periods will affect the amount of water in watersheds and dams, thereby limiting agricultural and energy production.

These and many more are a stark reminder that climate change is a clear and present threat to the lives of all Filipinos, particularly our most vulnerable sectors of our society. I am talking about our local communities, the lumad, farmers, fisherfolks, persons with disabilities, women, children, and the elderly.

We do not have the luxury of time to remain still, to be passive, if we aim to combat climate change. The world cannot afford any further delay.

Adaptation—or to build resilience against climate impacts—is also nothing new for us. It means doing everything we can to protect people’s lives and livelihoods from the impacts of our changing environment, as well as creating and spreading solutions to make communities, homes, businesses, farms, and infrastructure stronger and better equipped to deal with increasing challenges.

Together with climate change mitigation, they have become buzzwords, having been said too many times, in too many occasions, for far too long. But translating these buzzwords into results—to actually enable our leaders and citizens to initiate and sustain climate action—remains a challenge.

We already have several landmark laws on the environment, climate change, and disaster risk reduction. We have the Clean Air Act (RA 8749); the Clean Water Act (RA 9275); the Environmental Education and Awareness Act (RA 9512); the Wildlife Resources Conservation and Protection Act (RA 9174); the Renewable Energy Act (RA 9513); the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act (RA 9003); the Expanded National Integrated Protected Areas System Act (RA 11038); the Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act of 2010 (RA 10121); and the Climate Change Act (RA 9729) creating the Climate Change Commission, and its amendatory law (RA 10174), which created the pioneering local adaptation finance mechanism called the People’s Survival Fund. 

I had the privilege of being principal author and/or sponsor of these laws.

But despite all this, we continue to be among the top countries that are most affected by climate change and disasters, year after year. 

In the name of climate justice, we will continue calling for greater leadership and action from the developed countries that have caused this climate crisis. Climate justice is to demand for what is right and just for the Filipinos who everyday fall victim to climate change. It is to improve our capacity to adapt and mitigate. It is to commit to upholding the right of every Filipino to a better life.

But within our country, we also need to exhibit leadership and action. We need to build on our progress so far and identify gaps within our systems in order to spur and normalize climate action on the ground and down to the last mile. 

To ensure a safer, healthier, and more resilient future will require everyone’s participation, especially from our youth. 

I hope that beyond this forum, you will continue taking steps that will raise awareness and find solutions to the challenges we face today. I hope you will inspire many more along the way. 

As I’ve said many times before, our youth will not just simply inherit this world. You are part of this process of building our nation and our planet. 

You have the passion, skills, creativity, and energy to effect positive change. You are not just the leaders of tomorrow. You are already the leaders of today. 

Thank you very much.