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Permanent Mission of the Republic of the Philippines to the United Nations

Philippine Statement
Senator of the Republic of the Philippines
on Agenda Item 49
Sustainable Development
at the 63rd Session of the United Nations General Assembly
27 October 2008


Madame Chair,

My delegation associates itself with the statements delivered by the representatives of Antigua and Barbuda and of Indonesia on behalf of, respectively, the Group of 77 and China and Member States of the Association of South East Asian Nations.

The Philippines would also like to convey its thanks to the Secretary-General for the reports issued under this Agenda Item 49 on Sustainable development, as well as to the presentations made this morning on the aspects of the agenda before us.

In this time of global financial crisis affecting countries in North America, Europe and Asia-Pacific, there is a real risk that the new found awareness and concern for worsening climate change may be eclipsed by the issues related to investments and financial flows. Prior to the current financial crisis, world opinion had been coming to terms with the urgency of the mitigation and adaptation agenda. Our challenge today lies in sustaining this strong focus on climate change, even as the world and country leaders tackle the financial crisis in the months and years ahead.

Two decades ago, the UN Commission on Environment and Development (UNCED) released the Brundtland Report and we agreed to pursue sustainable development in order “to ensure that humanity meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” Since Rio, sustainable development has sharply drawn attention to environmental problems and the global search for new approaches that minimize threats to dwindling resources and human welfare.

Protection of the global climate to ensure the optimal functioning of its life support systems is a critical aspect of sustainable development and the reason for the adoption of the Framework Convention on Climate Change. We recognized the urgency of identifying specific measures to arrest climate change when we adopted the Kyoto Protocol. More recently, we agreed to accelerate implementation of Rio and Kyoto commitments when we adopted the Bali Plan of Action.

Protection of the planet’s climate is premised on the principles of “equity” and “common but differentiated responsibilities.” The Convention itself sets the three essential parameters by which we ought to achieve the ultimate objective of addressing climate change: first, by ensuring that adaptation is undertaken; second, that food production is not threatened; and third, that economic development proceeds in a sustainable manner.

Accelerated implementation under the Bali Plan of Action, including the promised new and additional financing and technology transfer to the developing countries, is premised on inviolable principles agreed on in Rio. We should not lose sight of the fact that this is an integral part of the “shared vision” that we are defining under the Bali Action Plan, together with the need for much deeper emission reduction targets of developed country Parties for the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol.

As a developing country Party to the Convention, the Philippines has always taken active part in shaping the Convention’s implementation. We continue to do so, guided by the above principles and the balance of commitments under the Convention. The Philippines fully subscribes to the provision on the balance of commitments under the Convention that “the extent to which developing countries will implement their commitments will depend on the effective implementation by developed countries of their commitments on financial resources and transfer of technology.”

Mindful of this fact, the Philippines, together with the G77 and China, has submitted proposals for more responsive financing and technology transfer mechanisms under the Bali Action Plan process. So far, most, if not all, of the climate change funds have been provided through voluntary donor funding and institutions outside the financial mechanism of the Convention. This has rendered the funding unpredictable and inadequate, as well as, inconsistent with the commitments under the Convention. This situation has to be rectified as resources are extremely important for developing country Parties, especially for adaptation.

As the Philippines is an archipelagic country made up of more than a thousand islands prone to natural disasters, adaptation to the adverse effects of climate change is a key priority. Increasing threats from natural hazards, including from climate change, have spawned initiatives in adaptation in affected communities, despite budgetary and technological constraints. In the on-going process under the Convention, therefore, the Philippines has taken the position that greater focus should be given to adaptation rather than mitigation.

The Philippines remains fully committed to fulfilling its obligations under the Convention. Since effective climate change responses must be ingrained in national policy, the Philippine Legislature has passed laws embodying the Convention principles and our commitments. This representation authored various legislative measures that seek to revise existing policy on the management of air, forests, solid waste, and water resources.

The Philippine Clean Air Act of 1999 provides a comprehensive air pollution control policy that balances development and environmental protection.

The National Ecological Solid Waste Management Act mandates segregation, recycling, composting, and proper disposal of biodegradeable and degradable municipal solid waste in all local government units down to barangay or village level.

The Philippine Clean Water Act was enacted into law for the purpose of addressing pollution from land-based sources like industries and commercial establishments, agriculture and community/household activities within a sustainable development framework.

Apart from the laws already in place, several bills filed by this representation are pending before the Philippine Senate. The Sustainable Forest Management Act and individual local protected area bills were proposed in order to orient new forestry policies, plans and programs in sustainable development.

In fulfilment of our commitment to the UNFCCC, I also filed the Climate Change bill that adopts the sustainable development framework for climate change adaptation; integration of climate change in various phases of policy formulation, development plans, poverty reduction strategies and other development tools; and the creation of a

Climate Change Commission.

Aside from the national government initiatives on adaptation and disaster risk reduction, a growing number of voluntary climate change endeavours are ongoing. I have personally spearheaded the Luntiang Pilipinas or Green Philippines, the goal of which is to plant 10 million trees to enhance global carbon sinks within a sustainable development framework. This national reforestation effort is our contribution to the UNEP Billion Trees Project.

We believe that it is in the pursuit of sustainable development through a clean and low-carbon development pathway, that the Philippines can best contribute its share in addressing the serious challenge of climate change.

These legislative and non-legislative initiatives serve as the Philippines’ testament to the significant progress we have attained in advancing Agenda 21 and sustainable development goals. Undoubtedly, the experiences of other countries around the world also provide vivid testimonies to the huge strides we have taken in elevating climate change and disaster risk to international consciousness. We now move on to the challenge of establishing a conspicuous and indelible space in this consciousness.

Two weeks ago, Parliamentarians from countries vulnerable to climate change- came together in a consultative meeting in Manila to advance disaster risk reduction as a national and community priority and as a cost- effective tool for adaptation to climate change. Co-convened by this representation with the UN International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UNISDR), the forum concluded with the “Manila Call for Action of Parliamentarians on Disaster Risk Reduction and Climate Change Adaptation.” In this statement, we commit ourselves to advocate for policy changes that advance disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation at national and international levels and to propose national legislation that mainstreams gender-sensitive disaster risk reduction in national and regional development plans. We further resolved to call on our fellow parliamentarians all over the world and on all Governments to make disaster risk reduction the primary tool for climate change adaptation at national and local levels, including the formulation of National Adaptation Plans. We will also closely monitor the compliance of our respective Government with the Hyogo Framework for Action. I am convinced that the implementation of these commitments will directly meet the challenge of retaining international focus on climate change and sustainable development.

Following that meeting, the Third Global Congress of Women in Politics and Governance brought together 260 policy and decision makers from all over the world to discuss how gender perspectives could be mainstreamed into climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction. The Congress was convened by the Center for Asia-Pacific Women in Politics (CAPWIP) in partnership with the United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR), the Women’s Environment and Development Organization (WEDO), the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the Global Gender and Climate Alliance (GGCA), the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the Inter Parliamentary Union (IPU), the United Nations Fund for Women (UNIFEM), the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

Realizing that women and children are uniquely affected by environmental degradation and climate change, we agreed at the Congress that gender need to be mainstreamed in policies and strategies for disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation. The Manila Declaration for Global Action on Gender, Climate Change and Disaster Risk Reduction, recognized that women are “vital agents of change, holders of valuable knowledge and skills…”, denounced the absence of the gender perspective in relevant global agreements, and called on Governments to comply with international commitments on gender equality.

These two conferences and the resulting calls for action exemplify how the issues of climate change and sustainable development can retain world attention. Continuous exchange of insights, experiences, and lessons provides an effective formula for preserving the zeal to achieve Agenda 21 and Millennium Development Goals. As we actualize enunciated objectives and policies, we must also keep reviewing and re-examining our approaches and strategies. We must always measure our success against the developing realities and be ready to accommodate new perspectives that would enable us to craft comprehensive, effective, and efficient responses to present needs while safeguarding the future. To do this, we must continue to tap and mobilize our collective potentials to address the adverse and exacerbating effects of climate change, especially on the poor and most vulnerable, and amplify possibilities toward a more sustainable future for all. In this cause, we must all act in unison.

Thank you.

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