On World Environment Day

UPDATED: This post has been updated to restore the footnotes that were inadvertently omitted after the Word file version of this speech was transferred and uploaded on our admin web site which uses an older version of WordPress. The omission of the footnotes was brought to our attention after an anti-RH bill blogger cried ‘plagiarism,’ citing unattributed passages from this speech. We have taken the necessary measures to prevent such omissions in the future, and we thank all well-meaning individuals, including bloggers, for immediately calling our attention on this matter.

In celebration of June 5 as World Environment Day
And June as No Smoking Month

June 6, 2012

Mr. President, today I rise on a matter of personal and collective privilege to celebrate with the world on its 40th World Environment Day. Commemorated every 5th of June, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) seeks to raise global awareness of the need to take positive action towards environmental issues since 1972. For this year, the theme is “Green Economy: Does it include you?”

UNEP defines a Green Economy as ‘one that results in improved human well-being and social equity, while significantly reducing environmental risks and ecological scarcities.’ Practically speaking, a Green Economy is one whose growth in income and employment is driven by public and private investments that reduce carbon emissions and pollution, enhance energy and resource efficiency, and prevent the loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services. [1] The theme ultimately challenges people to understand and support actions that stimulate a more environment-friendly economy.[2]


Mr. President, it is practical and necessary to ask the question, “Does it include us, the Philippines?” In the context of prevailing poverty, social injustice and rising population, do we have room to consider a green economy?

The answer is a resounding YES. Especially us. We are a nation who depends largely on its natural resources. We are continually faced with climate-driven risks posed by rising sea levels, coastal erosion and unpredictable weather patterns. We have many countrymen who are food-poor, and don’t have access to a steady supply of clean water.

We have an urgent need to address these basic services due to our countrymen and we must do so in a manner that is ecologically sustainable. Ecological scarcity and poverty are inextricably linked. Thus, we can also rise above poverty by investing in greening our agriculture, buildings, energy, fisheries, forests, manufacturing, tourism, transport, water and waste management.

To transition to a green economy, we must have national environmental policies in place that are strictly implemented. We may consider subsidies or incentives for public investments in green key sectors. And we may even need to make trade and technical assistance available or invest in capacity building, training and education. A green economy creates jobs and brings about economic progress, while at the same time avoiding the risks brought about by climate change, water scarcity and the loss of ecosystem services.[3]


Mr. President, I’d like to bring this to a level more relatable and relevant to us – right here in the Senate. Let us ponder, have we made ways to make this a greener institution? As the institution that approves and enacts laws, have we showed ourselves worthy to be emulated?

With the cooperation of the Senate Secretariat led by Secretary Emma Lirio-Reyes, my office has initiated moves to make the Senate more environmentally friendly.

First, we have implemented the segregation-at-source and no plastic policies. Through the untiring efforts of the General Services Department and the invaluable contribution of the Mother Earth Foundation, a Materials Recovery Facility was established right at our parking lot. Since its establishment, there has been a reported 50% reduction in the volume of waste so much so that the services of the hauling truck were also cut in half. Our partners and my office have been conducting regular monitoring of this project and I plan to extend the same to the whole bureaucracy. My office has already made initial coordination with the Civil Service Commission.

Likewise with the cooperation of the Senate Secretariat, the Senate has also implemented the use of water dispensers in lieu of bottled water during the impeachment trial, regular sessions and committee hearings. I look forward to the continued implementation of this policy.

To make further developments and more instrumental changes, I have drafted a Senate Resolution whereby I encourage the Senate as an institution to commit to a Sustainability Mandate and to take actions and make decisions in a socially and environmentally responsible way. I am filing it today, for the Senate to take up and to attend to, with the session break looming ahead as an opportunity for action.


Mr. President, is this participation limited to the government, nongovernment organizations, and big corporations? The answer is a big NO. I ask each and everyone to consider the environment in making their economic choices. Our consumption behavior plays a big role in our move towards a green economy. It sends a signal to producers and manufactures that we want a greener and healthier lifestyle. Every peso we spend, we must look into spending it on more sustainable and resource-efficient enterprises and initiatives.

The goal is to change the mindset of the people and adopt a green lifestyle. But this cannot happen overnight. It requires a conscious choice to do business and take part in activities using a more sustainable approach. This is something that we should consider in our every move – in doing our work in the office, in conducting our affairs, in spending time with our friends, in following our passions.

Sustainability is achieved through community participation. It requires decision-making that aims to protect and enhance the quality of life, taking into consideration the short- and long-term economic, social, and ecological interests of all. This is something that we should inculcate in our children, most especially students. That is why in the National Environmental Awareness and Education Act of 2008 which I authored, environmental education shall be integrated in the school curricula at all levels, whether public or private. Our students shall be taught environmental concepts, principles, laws, and practices, as well as open their minds to the threats of environmental degradation and its impact on human well-being, the responsibility of the citizenry to the environment and the value of conservation, protection and rehabilitation of natural resources in the context of sustainable development.

It is worthy to note that the landmark case Metro Manila Development Authority vs. Concerned Residents of Manila Bay promulgated in 2008 was filed by students themselves. They successfully mandated various key government agencies in the national and local levels to clean up, rehabilitate, and preserve Manila Bay and elevate it to a condition that makes it fit for swimming, skin-diving, and other forms of contact recreation. Each agency has an important aspect to cover to cause the rehabilitation of the Bay and its tributaries – providing sanitation facilities, removing illegal structures and settlements, preventing marine pollution etc. A quick informal update from the Manila Bay-River Basin Control Office Executive Director Noel Gaerlan shows the inter-agency efforts and cooperation for the implementation of the operation plan.

The challenge lies in the waste management in the barangay level. On the ground, they focus on what is visible – the floating garbage on waterways. This illustrates the significant role an individual plays. The success of the partnership with the community, the local government units and private companies through an Adopt-an-Estero program lies in an individual choosing sustainability — practicing segregation at source, not littering, recycling, and supporting companies that engage in this corporate social responsibility.

But this is just one example. There are ten (10) sectors that UNEP is suggesting we consider we make greener — buildings, fisheries, forestry, transport, water, agriculture, energy supply, tourism, waste, and manufacturing and industry. The call is to reduce energy use or adopt renewable energy, choose sustainably harvested food, use resources efficiently, recycle and be a wise consumer.

Do not go for Business-as-Usual. It’s time to change the way we think. A big transformation starts from a small step. Green up!

Thank you, Mr. President. #

[1] http://www.unep.org/wed/theme/

[2] http://businessmirror.com.ph/home/biodiversity/28009-world-environment-day-2012-challenge-for-actions-for-green-economy

[3] http://www.unep.org/greeneconomy/Portals/88/documents/ger/GER_summary_en.pdf

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