Keynote Address of His Excellency President Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III – by Hon. Ramon P.J. Paje

I am honored to speak on behalf of President Aquino. Allow me to share with you his message for this occasion:

Two years ago at the UN Climate Change Summit in New York, world leaders from across the globe gathered to discuss one of the most pressing challenges of our time. Speaking for our nation—a nation that has felt firsthand the impact of the new normal— we made a call for each nation to do everything they can to address the problem of climate change. Last November, we echoed our stance at the COP21 in Paris, where much of the modern world share the success of reaching a deal that involves concrete actions, such as limiting carbon emissions and investing even more in renewable energy production.

Now, as we open the first Philippine Environment Summit, I believe we must tap into the same spirit of solidarity. I understand that the different organizations present, each has specific concerns: from resolving problems with deforestation and loss of ecosystems, to controlling the toxic effects of mining pollution and GMOs. At the same time, I wish to point out that all of you here are united by a shared goal, which is protecting the only world we have, and making certain that we remain its worthy guardian by promoting biodiversity, renewable energy, eco-waste management, among others. Indeed, more can be achieved when people work together toward a collective goal. This environmental summit brings all these issues together: as we engage more people in discussions that can cut across subsectors, we are creating deeper and more meaningful strategies in conserving the environment.

Seeing all of you here reassures me that we are not alone in pursuing reforms to address climate change. Despite the fact that we have one of the smallest carbon footprints in the world, we as a country are doing our part to protect our resources and our people from ever increasing climate risk.

Policies and legislation are in place to safeguard our environment: First, we have Executive Order No. 26 or the establishment of the National Greening Program, which, seeks to stabilize our ecological systems by planting 1.5 billion trees in around 1.5 million hectares. I am told that, as of the end of last year, we have already reforested 1.3 million hectares, and that we will reach our target by this year.

We also signed EO No. 23, placing a nationwide ban on cutting trees in natural and residual forests when we took office in 2010, a total of 197 illegal logging hotspots were identified. But as of last December, we have brought this number down to 23. The confiscated forest products were later converted to about 150,000 units of furniture for public schools, and were used to repair public school buildings, consequently, a total of 1,549 cases have been filed, which have so far led to 202 convictions for illegal logging.

The NGP and the logging moratorium allowed us to rebuild our forest cover, which is why we need to continue on this path beyond our term. We therefore issued EO No.

193 last year, expanding the coverage of the program to include all remaining unproductive, denuded and degraded forestlands until 2028, with emphasis on our endemic species and biodiversity.

Climate change is a multi-faceted problem, and thus we have revisited our strategies in several sectors to make sure our approach to this issue is holistic. For instance, we are diversifying our energy mix, incentivizing investments in renewable energy, and engaging stakeholders to develop a framework for disaster risk finance and insurance to ease the impact of disasters on vulnerable Filipinos. Furthermore, as much as we focus on mitigation, we also need to begin adapting to the new normal. This is why we have improved our weather forecasting and warning systems, have continued to revisit our disaster response mechanisms, and have pursued the strategy of building back better.

Time and again, we have said: In this effort to act against the threats of climate change, no one is exempted; all must contribute thus I look forward to seeing the fruits of your dialogues and discussions, as you explore more avenues to contribute to our environmental protection and sustainable development. Regardless of the magnitude of our initiatives, I am hopeful that all our efforts can be harmonized, so that we may ensure that we leave behind a world still filled with opportunities- one that we can bequeath to the many generations to come, one that is better than how we found it.

Thank you and good day.

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