Collective environmental stewardship
In his fourth State of the Nation Address, President Rodrigo Duterte called on local government units (LGUs) nationwide to prevent further environmental degradation in the country.
It is unfortunate that, despite numerous environmental laws and regulations that have been institutionalized over the last two decades, the Philippines continues to generate about 35,000 tons of garbage daily—more than 8,600 tons per day in Metro Manila alone. The lack of political will, weak LGU capacities and absence of alternatives to land-filling have aggravated the situation on waste management.
A September 2019 Pulse Asia survey showed that only 31 percent of Filipinos have sufficient knowledge of climate change, while 8 percent have wide knowledge of the issue. The survey findings are disturbing, given the particular vulnerability of the country to climate-related problems. There has been a steady decline in the percentage of Filipinos with sufficient or wide knowledge about climate change, from 11 percent in 2008 to 8 percent in 2019.
Ironically, the same survey also showed that 60 percent of Filipinos believe they have felt a big change in the climate situation in the past three years.
From this, we can infer that although many Filipinos have felt or are beginning to feel the effects of climate change in their communities, they have not exerted much effort to know more about its impact on their lives and on the next generation. Still, although they profess to have limited knowledge about it, 70 percent acknowledge that the effects of climate change are dangerous to their communities. In a Social Weather Stations survey conducted last year, 65 percent specifically mentioned people’s recklessness in throwing and disposing of their garbage as the cause of plastic pollution.
The Philippines’ heavy reliance on agriculture (31 percent of employment) and high exposure to climate-related disasters (on average, 19 events per year over the last decade) were among the reasons the country was assessed as among those most vulnerable to climate change. According to the 2019 Global Climate Risk Index, the Philippines ranks fifth among countries most at risk to such developments.
Stewardship of the environment should be everybody’s concern. The task to protect and preserve the environment is not just the government’s business. The private sector also needs to adapt their systems and processes to respond to climate change. This is imperative to ensure business growth and sustainability. The government, for instance, must pursue sustainable tourism and the responsible management of our natural resources by working with local communities—the daily caretakers of their environment and directly impacted by any changes to it—to prevent overtourism and environmental decay. The Department of Environment and Natural Resources’ cleanup of Boracay, the ongoing Manila Bay rehabilitation project, and the expanded greening program are sending a strong message to all sectors that the government can respond to the challenge of responsible environmental stewardship.
On a global scale, the United Nations has recently warned world leaders that greenhouse gas emissions must be cut by a staggering 7.6 percent every year for the next decade to meet the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement, or, suffer the impacts of greater global warming.
Enabling collective efforts on the environment through policy and regulatory reforms, while also balancing economic development needs, requires harmonized policies, holistic and practical solutions, sustainable alternatives in operations, and, above all, changes in behavior and mindsets. By strengthening partnerships among all stakeholders—the government, the private sector, the academe, nongovernment organizations, civic groups—the Philippines can work to become a model of climate resilience through more responsible environmental stewardship.
Dindo Manhit is founder and managing director of the Stratbase Group.
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