Speech: Inauguration of the ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity New Headquarters

July 29, 2017

Speech of Senator Loren Legarda
Inauguration of the ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity New Headquarters
29 July 2017 | University of the Philippines – Los Baños, Laguna

(Standard Greetings)

Foremost, I congratulate the ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity (ACB) for the launch of your new headquarters in time for the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the ASEAN. I also wish to express, once again, my support to the mission of ACB to champion biodiversity conservation in the region.

ASEAN is one of the most diverse regions in the world. It hosts more than 600 million people who speak more than 900 different languages and dialects. While it occupies only three percent of the Earth’s surface, it is home to 18 percent of all species assessed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). It is home to the mega-diverse countries of the Philippines, Indonesia, and Malaysia, all three of which are also part of the Coral Triangle.

Amid this abundance, great challenges face us in the task of protecting and preserving our region’s rich biodiversity. The increasing loss of biodiversity, particularly in Asia, is being attributed to habitat loss, over-exploitation, pollution, invasive alien species and climate change.

The establishment of the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC), since it promotes economic, political, social and cultural cooperation across the region, is seen as a way for the region to gain greater influence in the global economic and political stage.

But I wish to remind everyone of a very important goal we must all aim for as we work towards economic integration—resilience and sustainable development.

The ASEAN Community is geographically located in one of the most disaster prone regions of the world.

According to the United Nations, people in the Asia-Pacific region are four times more likely to be affected by disasters caused by natural hazards than those in Africa; and 25 times more likely than those in Europe or North America.

Moreover, climate change has already made its presence felt in our region and in our respective countries. Extreme weather events, stronger typhoons, heavier rains, more severe floods, and devastating droughts have become recurring events, a common concern for countries in the region.

Furthermore, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) said that poverty alleviation and achieving food security will become increasingly difficult, new poverty traps will arise as existing obstacles remain, and economic growth will slow down because of climate change.

Faced with these difficulties, it is a must that development policies should promote effective risk reduction towards sustainable and resilient growth.

We must make our countries resilient by increasing investments in disaster risk reduction, conducting and sharing risk assessments, establishing effective and efficient early warning systems, and protecting our ecosystems, among other actions.

We find hope in the international frameworks adopted by our community of nations in 2015, particularly the Sustainable Development Goals, the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, and the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction—that would save our planet and all species from destruction and death, depending on the level of action we take today.

These three agreements are interlocking and the ASEAN Center for Biodiversity has a key role in helping the region make good use of these agreements, especially on how it can be adopted by each ASEAN member state based on their biodiversity profile.

The Philippines is very fortunate to be the home of the ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity and I look forward to more partnerships with you. The Senate has already passed on third reading the proposed Expanded National Integrated Protected Areas Act, which would strengthen protection and conservation measures of almost a hundred protected areas in the country. We hope the measure to be passed in the House of Representatives soon and be enacted by the President.

I also enjoin other ASEAN Member States to craft policies that would strengthen the management and protection of your countries’ natural resources especially in critical areas, including watersheds, marine sanctuaries, wetlands, tropical forests, coastal areas, among others.

In closing, I wish to stress that, if we truly want the ASEAN Economic Community to be successful, we must learn to co-exist with our environment.

The Earth that we live in provides us with our needs, and even if we have all the money in the world, we will not survive in a deteriorating environment.

We will meet more challenges along the way but I encourage all of you to never get tired of doing what is good for our planet. As different nations living in one planet, we need to unite towards the preservation of our biodiversity.

Together, we can work for a safe, sustainable and resilient present and future.

Thank you.