On Earth Day Legarda calls for sustainable and resilient development

April 22, 2013

Measures to mitigate the impact of climate change and further protect the environment will again top Sen. Loren Legarda’s legislative agenda in the incoming Congress, among other priorities, as scenarios point to more alarming consequences for the country.

“If we are to pursue sustainable and resilient development rightly, we need a new attitude towards our environment and our world — one of genuine concern and care, one of respect and fairness,” Legarda stressed.

Legarda said the state of the world’s environment is frightening and the effects of climate change are already happening and being felt by countries, including the Philippines.

She said the number of disasters that visited the Philippines the past year and the deaths in their wake require collective and coordinated action from policy makers to local government units, down to the communities and individual citizens.

Data would show that in 2012, the Philippines ranked 2nd with 16 disasters, second only to China. For disasters with highest number of deaths, the Philippines ranked 7 and 8 because of the ‘Habagat’ floods in August (116 deaths) and the earthquake in February (113 deaths). The typhoons last year cost the country P39.3 billion pesos or equivalent to 0.62% of the national GDP.

Legarda said that in 2011, the World Risk Index considered the Philippines as the third most vulnerable to disaster risks and natural hazards. A staunch environmentalist, she said that although she has authored several laws to protect the environment and lessen the impact of climate change, there are other environment-related issues that need to be addressed.

“Marami pang dapat gawin para pangalagaan ang ating kalikasan. Papaigtingin ko pa ang aking adbokasiya sa larangang eto,” Legarda said as she believes that future generations of Filipinos should live in enabling environments where natural resources are used in ways sustainable and not destructive.

She noted that over the past years, heavy rainfall has caused flooding and typhoons have become stronger and more frequent. On the other hand, extreme drought has been seen in several provinces as increased temperatures have caused crops to wilt. All of these are just among the effects of climate change.

Legarda said she is eyeing some follow-up measures to tackle climate change. The senator was the principal author of the Climate Change Act (Republic Act 9729) and co-author and sponsor of its amendatory law which provides for the creation of the People’s Survival Fund (RA 10174).

Besides these two laws, Legarda was chiefly responsible for the passage of the Clean Air Act (RA 8749), Clean Water Act (RA 9275), Ecological Solid Waste Management Act (RA 9003), Environmental Awareness Education Act (RA 9512), Renewable Energy Act (RA 9513), and Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act (RA 10121).

The senator stressed that since these laws are already in place, government agencies, local government units, and other stakeholders should do their share in carrying out these policies. The people and communities, she said, have also equal responsibility to protect the environment.

On the state of the country’s water system, Legarda quoted a study that as early as 1996, half of the country’s rivers were already polluted from domestic, industrial and agricultural sources. Most studies point to the fact that domestic wastewater is the principal cause of organic pollution (at 48%) of our water bodies. Yet, only 3% of investments in water supply and sanitation were going to sanitation and sewage treatment.

With regard to Philippine forests, host to a large variety of plant and animal species, these have been declared as one of the world’s biodiversity hotspots. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicts that with a 1.5 to 2.5-degree Celsius rise in temperature in a span of 50-100 years, 30% of species would be at risk of extinction.

On emissions, the Philippines is ranked 45 worldwide, emitting 85.63 tonnes in CO2 from 1992. It was learned that the world emits 48% more carbon dioxide from the consumption of energy now than it did in 1992 when the first Rio summit took place.