Mainstreaming climate change adaptation

March 16, 2011

By now, after countless studies, there should no longer be any doubt that climate change is one of the most serious global challenges of the 21st century.

Our country is extremely vulnerable to the effects of climate change. Excessive heat in the earth’s atmosphere distorts weather patterns, causing the severe droughts we associate with El Nino and excessive rains we associate with La Nina, during months when these disturbances are least expected especially in our farmlands. And because of the denudation of our watersheds and the unrestricted urban development, our communities are at risk from typhoons and rains, as our experience with Ondoy and Pepeng showed us.
While it is true that the Philippines’ carbon footprint would be considered insignificant compared to that of developed nations, our reefs, forest covers, marine life, and vast natural wonders will eventually be destroyed if we stand idly by and do nothing. Sure, rich countries consume far more energy than us and are largely responsible for the accelerated levels of pollution in our environment. But at this critical point in time, there is no use pinning the blame on others. We Filipinos are stakeholders too. We have a responsibility to halt further damage to our part of the planet, and we must act now.

In light of this, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources formulated a twelve year plan called the Philippine Strategy on Climate Change Adaptation. To reinforce this, the Climate Change Commission has ironed out a few gaps in the initial strategy and has released the National Framework Strategy on Climate Change.

Likewise, in order to address immediate concerns that have arisen due to climate change, the Commission is putting together the National Climate Change Action Plan, which responds to issues that arise in vulnerable sectors such as agriculture, water resources, ecosystems, and infrastructure services.

In short, we have the plans and strategies to adapt to climate change, but we have to remember that the real challenge still awaits us—the fact that these plans still have to be implemented through consolidated efforts by our Local Government Units. These plans should materialize into actual projects felt by our people. This means that each person here is important in preparing our country for the challenges we will face in the coming years.

This responsibility rests on all of our shoulders. And rest assured that as you go about the strategies that have been and will be discussed today, the national government will do its part.

We have taken not just a straighter path; we have taken a greener path as well.

We have tapped into the creativity of Filipinos by using coco coir to prevent landslides and to find more financially and environmentally sustainable solutions to our problems. This will give us reliable material in building quality infrastructure while, at the same time, giving us a more cost-efficient alternative to other materials.

And if you remember my SONA, part of our administration’s initiative is to protect our watersheds—first by physically protecting them, and by using our resources to plant more trees. Moreover, we have also issued an Executive Order to restrict commercial logging in the Philippines in order to regain and preserve the forest cover we have drastically lost in the past years.

I have ordered a review of our disaster response mechanisms, specifically for earthquakes and tsunamis. I am also studying programs that will give incentives to people who will relocate to higher ground in lieu of places in danger of flooding due to rising sea water levels. Furthermore, we are studying the design and implementation of infrastructure and non-infrastructure programs, such as beach and mangrove reforestation, in order to physically protect coastal areas from natural disasters such as tsunamis.

There are other initiatives that we will unveil in the coming days that will not only help our environment, but also improve the livelihoods of our fellow citizens.

News about efforts to protect the environment does not usually occupy headline space. Likewise, it does not always win me political points to push for programs whose benefits will be manifested only after I am long gone from office. However, I do this not to score points, but because it is the right thing to do. This is what our generation and future generations of Filipinos need to survive. I can only hope that these opportunities to save our planet will not be squandered by our people and by those who will come after us.

Thank you.