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Speech of the Honorable Loren Legarda Deputy Speaker and Lone District of Antique Representative Consumer e-Congress in the New Normal 2020 Sustainable Consumer in the New Normal October 23, 2020

October 23, 2020

Good morning to our local chief executives, business leaders, fellow advocates, and to all of you joining us today. I am pleased to be here with you although virtually but this is very much welcome considering we have significantly less carbon footprint than in a physical setting.

This year’s observance of the Philippine Consumer Welfare Month is vital as we grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic and as the challenges in terms of food security and sustainable production and consumption have dramatically increased these quarantine months.

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates that 59 million Filipinos suffer from moderate to severe lack of consistent access to food. The number of severe and moderately food insecure Filipinos climbed from 44.9 million in 2014 to 2016, according to the State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World report released last July 2020.[1]

The FAO defines “severely food insecure” as those who have gone a day or days without eating, due to lack of financial capacity and other resources, while the “moderately food insecure” people are those who have experienced uncertainties about their ability to obtain food, and have been forced to compromise on the quantity and quality of the food they consume.[2]

A nationwide survey by the Social Weather Stations (SWS) in September meanwhile also revealed that an estimated 7.6 million Filipino households experienced involuntary hunger or hunger due to lack of food at least once during the height of the coronavirus pandemic. This is a hunger incidence rate of 30.7%, the highest since the previous record of 23.8% in March 2012.

How can we then push for sustainable consumption and production during and beyond this COVID-19 pandemic, which would entail a lot of remodeling and redesigning of our food systems, as millions of our fellow Filipinos are going hungry and have nothing to eat?

This is a question that I would like for us here to think about as we hold this Consumer e-Congress.

What I would like to emphasize is that, although COVID-19 has drastically disrupted our very systems and economy, we also need to acknowledge the opportunity for us to rethink our very approach to development and recover from this better and more sustainable than before.

According to the UN, sustainable consumption and production is about doing more and better with less. It is about decoupling economic growth from environmental degradation, increasing resource efficiency and promoting sustainable lifestyles. It is to contribute substantially to poverty alleviation and the transition towards low-carbon and green economies.[3]

The Philippines is considered as a promising newly-industrialized country, with its export economy moving away from agriculture towards electronics and labor-intensive manufactured goods, such as garments, footwear, processed foods, and furniture. Its credit rating has also been upgraded by international rating agencies to sovereign investment grade level.[4]

Some however raised the concern on the apparent high incidence of poverty that remains. A study by the Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS) in August 2020 reported that with just a 10% decline in incomes, up to 5.5 million Filipinos would be pushed into poverty, with the pandemic causing larger income dislocations.

And I think we are being too shortsighted if we only consider the challenges in this pandemic. How about the estimated 240,000 farmers severely hit by droughts and dry spells last year due to El Niño and climate change? The millions of coastal communities that would need relocation as the threat of sea level rise and storm surges become more evident? The millions more who would suffer from typhoons, landslides, and flashfloods?

How many more would go hungry and live in poverty and in danger due to the climate crisis?

Therefore, when we talk about sustainable consumption and production, we need to talk about resilience. We need to discuss how we could make our food systems inclusive and resilient, not just from the threats brought by this pandemic but also from the dangers of climate impacts we already suffer from.

The Philippines is known as a leader in the region in terms of environmental legislation. We have the Philippine Environmental Impact Statement System (PEIS) of 1978, the Clean Air Act 1999, the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act 2000, the Clean Water Act 2004, the Biofuels Act 2006, the Renewable Energy Act 2008, and the Climate Change Act of 2009[5]—many of which I have authored and sponsored during my three terms in the Senate.

These are laws that have been regarded as model legislation for other countries in the region and the world. But I acknowledge that we have yet to pass a law on sustainable consumption and production.

That is why I filed on September 8 this year House Bill No. 7609 or the “Philippine Circular Economy Bill,” which aims to promote a circular economy and a whole-of-nation transition to a sustainable future.

I filed this with the intention of advancing the principles and strategies on circular economy and sustainable consumption and production to serve as guideposts for policy and decision-makers.

This bill seeks the adoption of product and services standards aligned with circular economy principles and the phasing out of single-use plastics by all business enterprises three years after the bill takes effect. A phase-out and transition plan shall be formulated within one year, which will be led by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), through the National Solid Waste Management Commission (NSWMC) and in coordination with concerned agencies and stakeholders.

A comprehensive life cycle assessment (LCA) program shall also be designed to ensure that the processes within the life cycle of goods, products, and services circulating in the market are ecologically responsive. This entails extensive research and development; formulation of regulatory mechanism; establishment of thresholds; creation of LCA laboratories; and provision of incentives for businesses conducting LCA within their operations.

The bill also urges all government entities to establish their respective Circular Public Procurement Programs, which shall take into account circular economy standards, as well as to integrate permaculture principles and practices in their respective programs, services, projects, and operations. An incentives and rewards system shall also be constituted by the Department of Budget and Management.

This would of course be undertaken with the help from various organizations and stakeholders nationwide, recognizing the need for convergence to breathe life into all our policies and legislation.

And as citizens and leaders in our communities and organizations, we should start embracing the principles of sustainability and climate resilience on a personal, household, or at the community level.

We should be more mindful of our carbon footprint, as our decisions and actions in our homes, places of work or business, and in our communities have a corresponding impact on the environment and our society.

We do this despite the Philippines being just a small emitter of greenhouse gas (GHG) in the atmosphere and therefore contributing so little to global warming and climate change, but we do this because we know that this is the right thing to do, and it can be done.

But of course, our call for high emitting countries to take the lead in significantly reducing their GHG emissions from the burning of dirty fossil fuels will continue in order to ensure a pathway that would lead to a safer, healthier, and more sustainable planet.

But as we hold this Consumer e-Congress, I would also like for you to define what a ‘sustainable consumer’ is for you and what actions they need to take in order to raise awareness and inspire many others to follow suit.

For me, it is about leading a lifestyle that generates as little waste as possible. I grow my own food, so I could limit buying groceries and avoid patronizing the hyper-consumerist model that we have right now. I compost my food scraps to serve as fertilizers for my plants and herbs.

I implement my own law on the proper waste management by segregating at source and recycling and upcycling those that I can in order to limit or even have zero waste.

There are of course many more sustainable practices that you can do or are already doing. And I know that they do really require extra effort from all of us, but it is precisely because we have gotten used to doing things the simple way that we forgot its impacts to our environment.

You might think that our little contributions will not go a long way but it is also precisely this very mindset that has enabled a culture of waste and pollution.

Decades of unsustainable patterns of consumption and production has also led to the degradation of our health.

Air pollution from industries, households, and vehicles emit has caused high numbers of deaths due to heart disease and strokes, as well as respiratory illnesses and cancers[6].

Pollution from waste is also a perennial problem for our country. We generate about 30,000 tons of garbage per day, but only half is collected. Even in Metro Manila, only 70% of the 8,000 tons of garbage generated each day is collected.[7] The rest often wind up on the streets, in canals and rivers. The waste that is collected is taken to open dump sites that often catch fire or contaminate local water supplies.

LGUs, responsible for the collection and disposal of solid waste material, generally have limited capacity to plan, develop, operate, and maintain sanitary landfills and have difficulty in implementing the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act.

As I said, households can help by consuming less, and recycling and upcycling more. This would really require a change in our mindset.

The challenge for our national and local leaders is how to manage waste in a safe, environmentally sound, and cost-effective manner. If done well, municipal waste management practices can contribute to the reduction of GHG emissions of a city, also short-lived climate pollutants, such as methane, that is far more potent than carbon dioxide.

We have to mobilize our country’s contribution toward a reduction in the emission of GHGs and its ecological footprint, which already exceeds its national biocapacity.

The solutions exist, and we know exactly what needs to be done. Let us help bring about the necessary changes in our systems and behavior. Now is the time to collectively act to recover sustainably.

Maraming salamat, at isang luntiang Pilipinas sa inyong lahat.

 

[1] https://cnnphilippines.com/news/2020/7/16/PH-most-food-insecure-southeast-asia.html

[2] Ibid.

[3] https://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/sustainable-consumption-production/

[4] Romana L. (2017). Sustainable Consumption and Production in the Philippines. World Scientific Publishing Company. European Union https://www.oneplanetnetwork.org/sites/default/files/10._scp_in_the_philippines.pdf

[5] DENR website (denr.gov.ph); NEDA [2014]; and Philippine Senate [2011, 2014].

[6] Ibid.

[7] http://www.adb.org/documents/philippines-country-partnership-strategy-2011-2016