PRIVILEGE SPEECH Hon. Speaker Loren Legarda Deputy Speaker Representative, Lone District of Antique House of Representatives United Nations Decade on Ecosystem Restoration and Climate Adaptation Summit

January 25, 2021

Mr. Speaker, distinguished colleagues in Congress, my beloved fellow Filipinos:

I address this humble chamber in recognition of a planet that is fast declining, as record highs of global warming, worsening effects of climate change, and economic shocks from this pandemic set us back to achieve our goals on sustainable and resilient development.

 Our planet has been sick for more than a century and 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.

 Mr. Speaker,

 They say the definition of insane is doing something the same way over and over and expecting different results.

 For the past three decades, I have sounded the alarm that nature is in retreat, that we are in an existential crisis due to our increasingly warming planet, and that we need to radically change the way we measure progress and happiness. 

 I will not get tired of doing these things over and over until my last dying breath—but does this make me insane or just extremely hopeful, believing in our capacity so much to transform ourselves and our society for the better?

 Mr. Speaker,

 The years 2021 to 2030 is declared as the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration to urge rapid action to combat planetary threats. The year 2030 will also be 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. 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. 

 Mr. Speaker,

 This decade, let us not be insane anymore. Let us not expect good things to come out of this crisis, if we do not change the very ways we live and commune with our environment. This is not something we can put at the doorstep just of one country, one government, or one entity. Unless we make this a whole-of-nation task—or a whole-of-planet, if you will—we will not succeed. 

 We are already seeing light in the recent inauguration of US President Joe Biden, who, on his first day of office, kept his earlier promise to rejoin the Paris Agreement—a clear signal that the US is ready to reclaim its significant role in the global fight against climate change.

 This is a welcome development that 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, which takes place today and tomorrow, that convey the need to accelerate and scale up climate efforts here at home and at the global level.

 This inspires us to continue leading in our domestic climate actions and remain committed in our pursuit for climate justice.

 Mr. Speaker,

 Every day, we are witnessing how nature is finding it hard to catch up with our economic ambitions and societal behaviors. But I find it ridiculous as to why we continue to allow the flattening of our limestone mountains over our rich soil and verdant forests?

 Why are we so bent on taking selfies with coffee drinks that use at least three single-use plastic products, as if it is the cutest thing to do and which we will just eventually throw away anyway?

 Why do we choose to burn fossil fuels already buried deep on the ground and not harness the potential of the limitless and renewable energy above ground?

 Mr. Speaker,

 Our problem on plastic pollution is not just an issue on solid waste management. It affects public health, the environment, and marine life and biodiversity. It worsens global warming and climate change because of the amount of fossil fuels used in the production and transportation of plastic products.

 The law on Ecological Solid Waste Management is two decades old, but why is the waste diversion rate in Metro Manila just 48%, while outside of Metro Manila is just 46%?

 Why do we allow ourselves to be one of the top countries in mismanaged plastic waste per year, most of which end up as marine debris, killing sea birds, sea mammals, fish, and other marine life, ultimately affecting the marine food chain?

 Yes, we Filipinos are still dependent on the “sachet economy.” 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 segragation 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.

 This is why I have earlier filed a bill that would regulate the importation and use of single-use plastics. I also support other bills in both chambers that would ban and also mandate an extended producers responsibility.

 No less than Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez announced that this government, through the Climate Change Commission which he now chairs, is pushing for a nationwide ban on single-use plastics. This is one legislation that should be in our priority agenda.

 Mr. Speaker,

 We also experienced last year massive devastation from three successive typhoons—Quinta, Rolly, and Ulysses— which submerged communities, affected hundreds of thousands of farmers and fisherfolks, and entailed almost 15 billion worth of damages in the agriculture sector and 13 billion worth of damages in infrastructure.

 The Sierra Madre acts as our natural buffer from the rains and winds of these typhoons, but with the successive battering and the environmental degradation, it lost its ability to protect and safeguard the communities who depended on it.

 This calls for more support for nature-based solutions, interventions, and policies to protect our nature’s wonders, ecosystems, and resources back to their pristine state.  

 Mr. Speaker,

 Ecosystems are the basis of all business, all livelihood, even health, wellness and happiness. We ignore it to our peril and after having despoiled it, we need to restore it before we can go back to maintenance mode.  Every peso spent is either for destruction or restoration.

 I have authored many environmental and climate laws, led delegations after another in global talks and negotiations, and urged adaptation as if our lives depended on it. But we still find ourselves at a juncture where global carbon emissions continue to rise, which entails greater danger for a country like ours that strives to do its best to address our risks as a highly climate vulnerable country.

 I am filing a resolution urging all departments to assess every expenditure based on how much it will help restore ecosystems. I have also inserted special provisions in the General Appropriations Acts to ensure this.

 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.

 We need to scale up climate financing by leveraging our domestic budget to effectively implement and deliver our national climate change agenda, and pave the way for a broad, strong financing strategy.

 I am also calling on my fellow lawmakers.  Let us perform the oversight necessary to see why our environmental and climate laws are honored more in the breach and take the necessary measures of inquiry, oversight, and if necessary, amendments in order for our government to address these threats with the authority and budgets needed.

 And I am pleading with our local government units.  In a crisis, do not throw your money away on hauling and tipping fees, or on 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 honors tradition and open spaces will make us withstand not just pandemics, but also climate-induced severe weather events.

 I appeal to all homemakers of all genders and ages. It will be in our homes and our families that we will see the impacts of climate threats.  Climate action, like charity, begins at home, with persistent and tireless attempts to reduce waste, find uses for all things, and in so doing, save money.

 I am challenging the millennials. Take back your future. Venture into 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.

 Those working on the information ecosystem, help me.  We can mirror the UN’s portal, and we can launch an app that targets each hectare and mark our success per hectare. Let us mobilize every region, every barangay, every Filipino to help restore the health of our ecosystems.

 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.

 Thank you very much.