Privilege Speech of Sen. Loren Legarda on Pandemic Recovery and Investment in Human Capital

July 26, 2022


Pandemic Recovery and Investment in Human Capital

Senate of the Philippines

26 July 2022


Mr. Senate President, distinguished colleagues:

I address this august chamber with a resolve for our country to build back better from the twin crises of the impacts from climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic, which our country and fellow Filipinos continue to experience these past few years.

Our national government has poured in the funds for the recovery of our economy and the welfare of more than 100 million Filipinos, whose lives as we know, have been forever altered by this pandemic.

However, it is not enough that we only look at the horizon. As we pull ourselves up from this pandemic, we must also put in the forefront of our collective awareness how we should deal with the graver and irreversible impacts of the climate crisis.

We are obviously living in challenging times of climatic changes that are unparalleled over thousands to millions of years. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Sixth Assessment Report (AR6) has warned us that today’s temperatures are at the highest in 125,000 years. We are now at the point of no return in our battle against climate change.

The report also tells us with absolute certainty that the human factor on climate change is “unequivocal”. If we fail to heed the science and address the causes of climate change, there would be dire consequences on our society and ecosystems.

The Global Commission on Adaptation (GCA) Flagship study asserts that by 2030, more than 100 million people in developing countries will live below the poverty line resulting from the impacts of climate change.[1] Extreme weather events will continue to wreak havoc and delay progress. Extreme heat will continue to affect food security and water supply. Rising sea levels will force coastal communities to seek shelter elsewhere.

More troubling is that the Philippines ranked fourth of countries most affected by long-term climate change according to the 2021 Global Risk Index.  This is all the more reason for us to accelerate our efforts in climate action, paralleling our fight with this pandemic.

The intricate interrelationships between the environment, our health, and the climate cannot be understated. We must ensure that our actions now work towards a Philippines that is not only resilient to pandemic shocks, but also from extreme weather and slow-onset climate events.

We have to rebuild our communities in such a way that we are also able to reduce our climate and health risks and vulnerabilities. I urge the national government and every Filipino to contribute to the staging of a resilient and sustainable pandemic and climate recovery.

Kailangang magtulong-tulong at magkaisa sa pagsulong ng pagbabago tungo sa pagpapaunlad ng kalidad ng ating pamumuhay mula sa pandemya at sa kinakaharap din nating krisis sa klima.

Mr. Senate President, distinguished colleagues:

Only through a climate pathway can we truly recover in a resilient and sustainable manner. As concluded in the Paris Agreement, among others, all countries must commit to limiting global warming by 1.5 degrees Celsius.  In order to achieve this, a net-zero global economy must be targeted worldwide by reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 45 percent by 2030, or by 7.6 percent every year from 2020 to 2030, to reach net zero by 2050.

We are committed to support this global goal through our Nationally Determined Contribution, which intends to avoid and cut emissions to 75 percent by 2030 and modernize our carbon-intensive sectors on agriculture, waste, industry, transport, and energy.

We believe that climate-resilient development is the right path to improving the lives of our vulnerable population, while also unlocking our potential for green growth.

Supporting and advancing renewable energy and energy efficiency; environment-friendly transportation systems; nature-based solutions especially for adaptation; resilient buildings and infrastructure; moving away from single-use plastics in favor of extended responsibility of plastic producers; and a truly circular economy, are initiatives consistent with this path.

While we also continue to unlock climate financing from global and multilateral sources, we need to enjoin the private sector to assist and invest on projects and programs in line with our country’s sustainability and resilience goals.

The new strategy in industry and government must be to incentivize and de-risk investments in low-carbon and innovative technologies while enhancing stakeholders’ capacity for mitigation.

The Global Commission on Adaptation (GCA) Flagship report also emphasized the need to empower local governments and people in managing climate risks and disasters, and urged for greater financial allocations for climate adaptation initiatives and programs.[2]

As we strive towards resilience, nature-based solutions must become the new currency. The key is incorporating local communities and other stakeholder groups into the development and execution of programs.

Moreover, we must heed the call of the Climate Change Commission to uphold the principle of “Build Right At First Sight,” which entails planning and executing policies and programs right for the first time, using the best available science. We must make sure that our limited resources are optimized to prevent further loss and damage to our communities.

Mr. President; distinguished colleagues:

We have been one of the forerunners in enacting significant environmental laws since 1998, including the Ecological Solid Waste Management Law; the Clean Air Act; the Clean Water Act; the Climate Change Act and the People’s Survival Fund Act; the National Environmental Awareness and Education Act; the Wildlife Resources Conservation and Protection Act; the Renewable Energy Law; the Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act; and the Expanded National Integrated Protected Areas System Act, among others.

The challenge, however, is the need to breathe life to these laws, programs, and policies. We need to make these laws work for our poorest of the poor, our most vulnerable, and our most marginalized.

We must strengthen our human capital and invest on the Filipino people.

The bigger task for us right now is to build safer and more resilient communities where Filipinos also have better job opportunities and equitable access to social services like education and health care.

Through establishing livelihood training programs and providing technical and financial support for our farmers, fisherfolk, indigenous peoples, and workers, we create an enabling environment where Filipinos can succeed and eventually provide for themselves.

This is why I am also pushing for stronger support to help the growth of micro, small, and medium enterprises and create more employment opportunities.

On the Human Capital Index (HCI) in 2020, the Philippines scored a rating of 0.52,[3] implying that children born in the Philippines today are likely to only fulfill 52 percent of their potential when they become adults. The risks and challenges of investing in human capital have gotten even more significant in light of the COVID-19 pandemic and the climate crisis.

Strengthening learning interventions for our children and youth is therefore essential. These educational programs must be tapped to promote critical concepts like climate change adaptation and mitigation, disaster risk reduction and management, and sustainability, among others.

This is what we primarily take into account while pushing for the “One Tablet, One Student Act,” which will assist our students in coping with the learning modalities of the present.

Mr. President; distinguished colleagues:

There is no time or room for complacency and indifference. It is time that we work towards resilience as the country’s priority strategy in our response to the pandemic and the climate crisis.

We need to heed the call of science and our experts to pursue and realize economy-wide and community-based measures that aim at reaching our goals sooner rather than later.

President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. himself said that our response to the climate crisis should be just as urgent. Let’s invest in where it truly matters so our development gains won’t be wasted come another typhoon or disaster. Let’s strive for a better normal by enabling genuine and lasting resilience for all.

Together, let us lead the way towards a resilient and sustainable pandemic recovery for all Filipinos, for all species in the world, and for our future generations.

Thank you, Mr. President.

[1] Global Commission on Adaptation. Adapt now: a global call for leadership on climate resilience.

[2] Ibid.

[3] “World Bank. 2020. The Human Capital Index 2020 Update : Human Capital in the Time of COVID-19. World Bank, Washington, DC. © World Bank. License: CC BY 3.0 IGO.”