Speech of PNoy at the LGU Climate Change Adaptation Summit

His Excellency Benigno S. Aquino III
President of the Philippines
Summit of Local Government Units on mainstreaming climate change adaptation in the Philippines
[Delivered at the Grand Regal Hotel, Davao City on 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 Niño and excessive rains we associate with La Niña, 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 all 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 12-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.
And before I end, may I just respond to some of the points raised by your Honorable President [League of Municipalities of the Philippines president Strike B. Revilla].  Doon po sa ating logging ban: Our results were from July 2010, even before I imposed it, to March 15, 2011—and I must commend the good Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources—we have confiscated a total of 5,267,033 board fee. We have ceased, in addition, a total of one million—kaya lang parang sa devil’s number ho ‘to—1,666,978 board fee, for a total of 6,934,011 board fee. There have been at least 34 wood processing plants who do not have an assured supply of lumber, closed. We have ceased 29 vehicles: ten-wheeler trucks, six-wheeler trucks, passenger jeepneys, motorcyles. I am told that these can be turned over for the appropriate LGUs, various other government instrumentalities who are helping us in our fight against all of these illegal loggings. There have been numerous people in various offices already charged and relieved. And in Region XI, I am going to understand, another 73 wood processing plants have been closed. That’s the good news. The bad news is, there are 20,000 people we are looking for new jobs to occupy and that directly leads me to the total mining ban.
Doon po sa mining ban—ang ganda ho pakinggan, no’—siguraduhin na natin wala tayong risk; wala na lang magma-mine. Pero I am told also, na ‘pag mayroon naman talagang resources doon, mawawala ‘yung large-scale miner; papalitan ng small-scale miner na lalo hong mahirap i-regulate, i-control at bantayan. So, parang ginagarantiya raw po natin, ‘pag sinarado natin lahat ng malalaking minahan, papasukan ng maliliit na talagang hindi naman ho susundin ‘yung mga alituntunin ng batas. Baka ho mas malaki ang problema. Sa Romblon ho, pinigil na nila lahat ng mining. Ang taas na po ng mercury levels everywhere. And I am told that that is primarily due to small-scale mining efforts.
So, I assume there is a convenient and good compromise between a total ban and a heavily-regulated mining activity. So to that end, there as such should be our first response: national land use policy. I am committed that we will execute that national land use policy before I step down.
And if I just may recall, pumasok po ako sa government service 1998. Katakot-takot na meeting diyan sa national land use na ‘yan. Nasa 2011 na po tayo, pinag-uusapan pa rin. Magre-retire na po ako in five years and two months yata. Dapat naman tapos na by that time. So siyempre, kailangan kong asahan, aasahan ko kayong lahat, malaking bahagi niyo doon sa pagkukumpuni nitong national land use policy na susundin ng lahat at hindi na haharangin sa pag-i-implement.
(Ano pa nga ho ba iyong points na ni-raise ni Strike?)
And the last point—at gagamitin ko na experiential—I am no longer a spring chicken. I do remember the time that you’d pass Roxas Boulevard and people were swimming in Manila Bay. In Malabon, there is a river called Tuliahan. It was not just a source of food, but again, it was a recreational facility. Nowadays, Tuliahan is, I think most part empty, except when there are massive floods brought about by the lack of forests upstream.
So, simpleng-simple lang po ‘to eh. Lahat ng mga binaggit kanina, magandang pakinggan. Pero mas maganda kung magiging katotohanan. At doon po ako committed tayo na mangyari pong katotohanan ‘to sa loob po ng ating panunungkulan.
Problema nga lang po dito—pare-pareho naman tayong pulitiko po dito—investment. Ano ba ‘yung investment? Kadalasan ho mamimili tayo, may short-term na—‘yun nga, “pogi points.” Pogi ako dito. ‘Yun ang pulitiko. Pero ‘yung ‘pag pogi, ang short-term, maganda; kadalasan ‘yung long-term, pangit. Mayroon naman ho kailangan talagang mamuhunan para mayroon pa tayong kinabukasan, ‘di po ba? So magtanong na lang po tayo: Ano bang nangyari sa Manila Bay? Bigla na lang hindi na puwede. Anong nangyari doon sa Tuliahan? Hindi na puwede. Tapos, mamili na ho tayo ng lugar. Marami ho sigurong lugar na maituturo na mayroon talagang hindi umintindi ng kanilang sinasakupan, ng kanilang responsibilidad kaya ‘yung mga sumunod na salinlahi, nagmana ng napakabigat na problema. ‘Yung dati hong mag-replace tayo ng ilang puno, ngayon magre-replace tayo bilyon na puno o bilyon-bilyon na puno. Habang nire-replace natin, mayroon nag-aasam-asam na putulin ‘to.
Kaya, alam niyo ho niyo, (sorry ha, hahaba nang kaunti lang ho ‘to, ‘no) mayroon tayong tinatawag na convergence plan. So ang dati, gagawin nating forest ranger. Si forest ranger, maski papaano, napaka-modicum ng kanyang honoraria. Titignan ‘tong puno; “puwede kong ibentang uling ‘to. Puwede namang magbulag-bulagan ako eh,” ’di ho ba? So ano ‘yung convergence plan? ‘Yung convergence plan, gawin nating makatotoo. Gawin nating praktikal na gusto nating pangalagaan ‘yung kalikasan. Gawin nating kapakipakinabang doon sa nangagalaga. Ano po ibig sabihin niyan? ‘Yung isa po sa schemes, so may tinanim na tayong mga puno, tatamnan ninyo ng mga halaman ng cacao at saka kape. Mayroon pong isang pagkalaki-laking dambuhalang multi-national na gustong bilhin lahat ng maipo-produce. Pero pagtanim niyo at para mamunga ‘yun, mga tatlong taon. ‘Yung tatlong taon, ano ikabubuhay ng mga nagtanim? Isasama natin doon sa conditional cash transfer program. Dulo po noon, may pakinabang sila na bantayan ‘yung puno, alagan ‘yung halaman na tinulungan silang itinanim at ang maganda po nito, after three years, ang pangako nitong mga komunidad na ito, ‘yung itinulong sa kanila sa conditional cash transfer program, ibabalik po nila sa national government para naman maitulong sa susunod na grupong imumungkahiin nating gawin ‘yun.
So, hindi ho puwedeng ‘pag ‘yung problema lampas ng boundary natin, wala na tayong pakialam. Sa totoo lang po at dito napaka-importante ng local government units, doon po sa Benguet, mayroon pong inilagay na marker. Nakalagay po doon sa marker: this place—ewan ko kung anong language, several ho yata—is not safe for human habitation… dahil mauuso… Awa ng Diyos ho, ang tindi ng mga tao doon. Pa-landslide na pero tinatayuan pa rin ng mga bahay doon. So ang punto ko lang ho dito, paano nakapagtatayo doon kung hindi papayagan ng LGU. ‘Pag pinayagan naman ho doon, patong-patong problema natin. ‘Pag umulan nang malakas, may threat ng landslide, pupuntahan natin. ‘Pag punta natin doon, sasabihin sa atin, bahala na ang Diyos sa amin—kapag wala pa silang nakikitang gumuguhong kapiraso, ‘di ho ba? ‘Yung ating nagre-rescue, babalik doon, take two, ire-rescue ‘yung sarili nila at kung minsan, papayag na, sige halina na kayo, puwede na. Pero paano nangyari ’yung problemang ’yun? Dahil mayroon mga may responsibilidad na hindi po inintindi. Lahat tayo may kanya-kanyang responsibilidad po dito. Maganda ho sana lampasan pa natin iyong obligasyon natin. Dahil, sabi nga doon sa isang sineng napanood ko noong bata pa ako, sabi niya ’yung: Dapat kalimutan na natin ’yung lumipas, pagkukulang ng iba, patawarin pagkukulang natin ngayon, tapos kailangan magsama-sama na tayo para sabay, mayroon tayong kinabukasan.
Asahan po ninyo, ang ating national government ay dumadami na ang kakayahan. Nababawasan na po natin ‘yung corruption. ‘Yung corruption po, naibabalik ‘yung pondo sa mga proyektong may katuturan. Asahan niyong susuportahan namin kayo sa lahat ng aming makakaya para mapalakas ang pare-pareho nating obligasyon na ipagtanggol ang kalikasan at ipamana ang ating bansa ng maayos sa susunod na mga salinlahi.
Magandang hapon po. Maraming salamat po.