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Whats happening in our environment?

MMSU- CTE UNESCO Club in cooperation with DENR PENRO Inter-high Competition on Environmental Awareness January 30, 2014, MMSU- CTE, Laoag City

Ladies and gentlemen, officers and members of the UNESCO Club, officials of the MMSU- CTE our partners in environmental protection, the competitors, a pleasant day to all of you. This year 2014, has arrived with much fervor as we, in the DENR take on the role of representing the varied issues and challenges that our citizens expect us to address. And though we have different advocacies, I wish to enjoin everyone today, to take a closer look at the state of our environment and how it is intrinsically linked to climate change--the greatest humanitarian and development challenge of our time. As the theme for todays activity goesWhat is happening in our environment? The question may be too plain and simple, as anyone of you may quickly answer with the most straightforward response such as: degrading, disgraceful, contaminated, or in bad shape. Yet, such answers are too profound that it would somehow require someone to give further details about. Having been appointed as an steward of the environment for decades, and having been assigned to the most critical and stable areas from Luzon, Visayas, all the way to Mindanao, may I say then perhaps, that I could be that someone who can enlighten you with facts and figures about what is really happening in our environment (I hope I wont scare you). First, lets talk about rains and storms. We are all aware that typhoons are normal occurrences in a tropical country like the Philippines with some 20 typhoons heading our way every year. But lately, the occurrence of torrential rains has been increasing even with the absence of typhoons.

Whats happening in our environment? MMSU- CTE UNESCO Club in cooperation with DENR PENRO Inter-high Competition on Environmental Awareness January 30, 2014, MMSU- CTE, Laoag City

The heavy and excessive rainfall we are experiencing is part of what climate scientists call "the new norm." This means we shall experience weather extremes that are more widespread and harder to predict. As an archipelago, 70 percent of the cities and municipalities in the country are coastal areas; and as we experience the intensity of the changing climate through extreme weather events, our communities and citizens, especially those unprepared, become more at risk. Who would forget Ondoy, Pepeng, Santi, Sendong, and Yolanda which has been described by experts as the strongest typhoon that has ever made landfall in the course of recorded human history? It was so strong that if there was a Category 6, it would have fallen squarely in that box. Up to this hour, we remain uncertain as to the full extent of the devastation, as information trickles in an agonizingly slow manner. Scientific studies suggest that the occurrence of tropical storms can increase between 10 to 40 percent in the next century as a result of greenhouse gas emissions. Furthermore, these storms can become 45 percent more intense. This is a new norm. The challenges brought by this new norm seem daunting, but the solution can start with ourselves, and everyone's effort put together. After all, it makes a big difference when a tree is planted in every home, or a plastic bottle is put to good use instead of being dumped in a pile of other nonbiodegradable waste materials, or when households manage their wastes with due regard for others, or even as simple as buying only what you need. In terms of legislation, we have enough laws and policies needed to help us achieve sustainable and disaster-resilient communities.

Whats happening in our environment? MMSU- CTE UNESCO Club in cooperation with DENR PENRO Inter-high Competition on Environmental Awareness January 30, 2014, MMSU- CTE, Laoag City

We have the Philippine Environmental Impact Statement System, Marine Pollution Control Law, the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, Ecological Solid Waste Management Act, Renewable Energy Act, Environmental Awareness and Education Act, Climate Change Act, the Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act, Toxic Substances and Hazardous and Nuclear Wastes Control Act, the Act Creating the People's Survival Fund, among many others. The preponderance of environmental and climate change laws, however, is not a guarantee of security. More than 12 years ago our legislators enacted the Solid Waste Management Act, but from last year's statistics of the National Economic and Development Authority, only 414 of 1,610 LGUs nationwide, or only 25.7%, have complied with the national plan. We need to assess the state of enforcement of these laws because it is by effective enforcement that we can ensure compliance in practice. In mitigating the effects of climate change, we need to double our efforts in protecting our environment and resuscitating our ailing ecosystems. Air quality is also expected to improve with the rehabilitation of forests through the National Greening Program (NGP) or reviving green patches in the metropolis. Of the country's total land area of about 30 million hectares, only 7.168 million hectares, or 24.27 percent, are forest covered. The ideal should be at least 12 million hectares or 48 percent of the total land area. The National Greening Program, which was officially launched in May 2011, aims to plant 1.5 billion trees in 1.5 million hectares of land by the end of President Benigno Aquino III's administration.

Whats happening in our environment? MMSU- CTE UNESCO Club in cooperation with DENR PENRO Inter-high Competition on Environmental Awareness January 30, 2014, MMSU- CTE, Laoag City

For 2011, 89.6 million seedlings have been planted nationwide, while in 2012, a total of 125.6 million seedlings were planted. The program is seen to contribute to mitigating climate change since trees absorb carbon dioxide, which is among the identified causes of global warming. The NGP has also helped generate jobs--364,088 jobs in 2011 and 380,696 in 2012--in seedling production and caring for the planted seedlings. In the aspect of coastal and marine management, we need to double our efforts so that we may rehabilitate our marine ecosystems. The destruction of our marine ecosystems will not only lead to the extinction of thousands of species but will also be detrimental to tourism, food supply, and sustenance and livelihood of our fisher folk. The Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau is implementing the Integrated Coastal Management Program to provide technical assistance to local government units in the development and adoption of their respective ICM plans. A total of 158 LGUs have already developed their ICM plans as of May 2013 and the PAWB aims to provide technical assistance to 667 additional LGUs by 2016. In Ilocos Norte, 7 out of 9 coastal LGUs have already complied. Now, if we examine the respective targets of these current programs, we are hopeful that we can build an environment that would mitigate the effects of the warming climate. But we need to do more in protecting our people, especially the poor, against natural hazards. I dare say the new norm requires from us a change in perspective, which I hope to sum up in the mantra: "resilience is an attitude."

Whats happening in our environment? MMSU- CTE UNESCO Club in cooperation with DENR PENRO Inter-high Competition on Environmental Awareness January 30, 2014, MMSU- CTE, Laoag City

Resilience is an attitude - Disaster risk reduction is not a cost, but an investment. Resilience is an attitude - "I may be blind, but I have vision," says visuallyimpaired Senator Monthian of Thailand, member of the Committee on the Rights of Person with Disabilities. Mr. Monthian Buntan has served as a Senator of the Upper House of the Royal Thai Parliament since 2008. He has been blind since birth. He has been advocating for the Improvement of Disaster Evacuation Plans around the world to meet the special needs of people including persons with disabilities, the elderly, children, refugees, and cultural/linguistic minorities. Resilience is an attitude - The glass is half-full, because after all, hazards are natural, and it is disasters that are man-made. We can always find innovative solutions to existing problems, and most importantly, we are never out of or lacking resources, we only need to effectively manage what we have so we can maximize on them. And what completes the solution is this theory: developing resilience may be more effective if we provide adequate social protection especially to the poor, who bear the greatest economic losses in disasters. For many of our people, every single day of work is synonymous to survival. When impassable roads due to heavy downpour prevent a daily wage earner from going to work, it would mean no earnings for the day, no food on the table. Increasing resilience means addressing poverty, so that finally, the growth of the economy will be felt by more of our people whose quality of life will have truly improved. Therefore, let me leave you a message of hope to ponder on regarding our environment: as long as we walk in the right path towards sustainable

Whats happening in our environment? MMSU- CTE UNESCO Club in cooperation with DENR PENRO Inter-high Competition on Environmental Awareness January 30, 2014, MMSU- CTE, Laoag City

development and a healthy environment with the character and attitude of resilience, we will be able to weather the challenges of our environments new norm. Now, what is really happening in our environment?I hope, you know the answers. Good day and God bless everyone!