The Estuary in Southeast Asia: Reflections on Ecological and Social History, Roundtable Discussion in the Event of the Closing of Tripa de Gallina: Guts of Estuary

November 26, 2023

Message of Senate President Pro Tempore Loren Legarda
The Estuary in Southeast Asia: Reflections on Ecological and Social History, Roundtable Discussion in the Event of the Closing of Tripa de Gallina: Guts of Estuary
25 November 2023 |Venice, Italy

Ladies and gentlemen, members of the Filipino community, friends and guests, good afternoon.

Southeast Asia is a region renowned for its lush landscapes and exceptional diversity. Its estuaries, in particular, are vital nodes of the region’s ecology and culture. They serve as the dynamic interface between freshwater rivers and the salty ocean, creating a unique and thriving ecosystem. These estuaries provide a contact zone for a remarkable array of flora and fauna. Their significance cannot be overemphasized, as they serve as critical breeding grounds, nurseries, and feeding areas for marine life. The intricate web of life supported by these estuaries has a profound impact on our regional fisheries, which are crucial to our economy and way of life.

To understand the ecological history of Southeast Asian estuaries is to uncover a story of intricate interdependence. The mangrove forests that line these estuaries are not merely a picturesque backdrop but a vital component of their ecological balance. They act as a natural buffer, protecting coastal communities from storms and erosion. Moreover, mangroves serve as invaluable carbon sinks, where they can be utilized to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions. The delicate equilibrium between freshwater and saltwater in estuaries sustains ecosystems within and supports the communities that rely on them.

However, the rapid rate of urbanization, industrialization and agricultural activities in Southeast Asia has led to the degradation of estuaries. Over the years, the unchecked deforestation of mangrove forests and the discharge of pollutants have gravely undermined the health and resilience of these ecosystems. This ecological imbalance presents not only an environmental crisis but also a looming threat to the livelihoods and lives of the communities dependent on these waterways.

The intersection of ecological, social, and economic urgencies concerning water and its systems in Southeast Asia compels us to take decisive action. We cannot allow these vital ecosystems to wither away under the weight of indifference and short-term interests. The preservation and restoration of these bodies of water are imperative.

We must acknowledge the pivotal role that bodies of water, particularly estuaries, play in maintaining ecological health. They mitigate carbon, purify water, and serve as natural defenses against coastal erosion and storm surges. By investing in their preservation and rehabilitation, we can reduce the adverse impacts of climate change and protect our communities. We can revive our struggling environment as our nation advances towards sustainability and inclusive growth. I am a strong advocate for this, and I can only underscore the need to reinforce social protection programs due to the climate crisis’ impact on health, livelihoods, the economy, and the well-being of all citizens, especially the marginalized.

In the face of mounting environmental challenges and the real-world impact of climate change, the time for action is now. Through the extensive legislative initiatives, I spearheaded and supported, we have effectively paved the way for a more sustainable future. The Ecological Solid Waste Management Act marked a pivotal step in responsible waste management, obliging communities to manage solid waste properly. The Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act reflect our commitment to combat pollution, protect our natural resources and champion clean air and water accessibility for all. Our collective recognition of the adverse environmental impacts of fossil fuels led me to co-author the Renewable Energy Act, promoting sustainable and eco-friendly power sources. As part of our proactive measures to shield the most vulnerable from climate disasters, I championed both the Philippine Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act and the People’s Survival Fund Act, securing critical resources for local communities to adapt to climate change challenges. Fortifying our commitment to environmental preservation, we passed the Expanded National Integrated Protected Areas System Act, ensuring the protection and sustainable management of critical natural areas. Our efforts extend beyond individual laws; they represent a holistic commitment to building a more resilient and environmentally conscious and committed future.

I would like to thank the Philippine Arts in Venice Biennale Coordinating Committee for organizing this gathering and prompting further discussion and exploration on this important subject. As we come together for the closing of Tripa de Gallina: Guts of Estuary, the official representation of the Philippines at the 18th International Architecture Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia, rest assured that the work has just begun. Let us work together to protect these valuable ecosystems, empower communities, and address the environmental and social challenges we face. It is only through our shared commitment and cooperative efforts that we can secure the enduring vitality of our waterways, thus ensuring a brighter future for our region and the generations to come.

Thank you. Isang luntiang Pilipinas sa ating lahat!