Former three-term Senator and now House of Representatives Deputy Speaker Loren Legarda highlighted the “urgent need for ambitious and decisive action across all sectors” and highlighted local initiatives in the country as she discussed the scale of the climate emergency globally and in the Philippines at the online lecture organized by the ISEAS Yusof Ishak Institute on Monday, July 12, 2021.
“Our country is currently in a state of public health emergency, but as we work together toward putting an end to this challenge, we cannot afford to lose sight of the more disastrous and lingering crisis—climate change,” Legarda said.
“We have vaccines for COVID-19. But there can never be any vaccine for the climate emergency. So, we must act collectively,” she stressed.
Legarda added that despite being visited annually by typhoons, the Philippines, as an archipelagic country situated along the Pacific typhoon belt, is set to face a more dangerous and disruptive “new normal” because of climate change.
“What makes the new normal different, however, is how warming oceans are fueling the intensity of severe weather events. Combined with old infrastructure and decades of short-sighted planning, we have become extremely vulnerable to climate impacts,” she warned.
“We have 60% of our population living along or near coastal areas. Millions will be directly impacted or submerged by sea level rise and inundation in only three decades. And according to the report, there are already 5.4 million Filipinos occupying land whose elevation is below the annual flood level. All these will also affect migration patterns in the country,” she added, citing an International Organization for Migration (IOM) Philippines Report.
The online lecture was organized by the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies – Yusof Ishak Institute, a leading research center dedicated to the study of socio-political, security, and economic trends and developments in Southeast Asia, and was supported by the Embassy of the Philippines in Singapore, under the Philippine Studies program, which has also been supported by Legarda.
Legarda noted that while the country is a pioneer in environmental legislation—many of which she herself authored—this is just one aspect of the urgent work needed, citing several ongoing initiatives that can help the country move forward amid the climate crisis.
Legarda viewed positively the groundswell in terms of programs on restoration and climate action in the Philippines, including promotion of native trees and plants, youth-led environmental work, tourism readiness and sustainability in preparation for the post-pandemic travel boom, seed saving, regenerative architecture, green jobs, transforming the food supply chain, and urban mobility—many of which were featured in the weekly online discussions “Stories for a Better Normal”, which she envisioned and currently hosts.
“These are prime examples of locally-led adaptation, demonstrating that we do have the shining examples of walking the talk,” Legarda said. “These are the efforts that must be recognized to exert greater influence on evidence-based decision-making, especially at the local level where we can best identify, prioritize, implement, and monitor adaptation solutions that address the actual needs of the community,” she added.
“In this era of climate crisis, made even more challenging by COVID-19, our decisions —and our failure to make and take them— will have an impact on our families and communities. The climate pathway is the way to go as we seek to confront the climate crisis. Any policy delay or inaction will have devastating economic and social effects,” Legarda concluded. ###