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A green recovery pathway for PH

Over a year has passed since COVID-19 hit, causing job losses and increasing poverty levels in its wake. Sadly, it has impacted people unevenly.

A recent United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) survey showed that many households (27 percent) earning below P10,000 lost all income during lockdowns. Estimates from the International Labour Organization (ILO) further revealed that 10.9 million workers in the Philippines—equivalent to 25 percent of total employment—have had their livelihoods disrupted, with women, youth, the poor, and the informal sector being particularly impacted.

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As the pandemic continues, socioeconomic recovery remains uncertain. The World Economic Outlook (2020) projections showed a glimmer of hope for the Philippines. But sustainable recovery requires building back better in new ways. To do so, we need to work collaboratively.

Expanding digitalization is one approach. The ILO’s Future of Work in the Philippines Report recommended promoting competitive, innovative industries, and advancing productive employment, but noted that it must be accompanied by upskilling or reskilling workforces, particularly in technology-supporting sectors as well as investing in the digital and green economies.

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Jumpstarting a green recovery with more decent jobs and resilient societies is crucial to building back better. Although modest compared to some countries, the Philippines is considered well on its way toward effective recovery thanks to the significant actions taken by the government.

Notably, the government is at the cusp of submitting its Nationally Determined Contribution, which aims for an ambitious target of 75 percent reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. To achieve this, investment in green technology and energy is essential, while enabling a green recovery strategy.

This approach is not just good for our health and the environment; it is good for economic growth. UNDP’s 2020 Human Development Report shows a $2-10 return for every $1 invested in nature and climate-aligned stimulus packages. This means COVID-19 economic recovery projects should also contribute to overall improvement of the environment and natural resources while reviving affected livelihoods and industries.

The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas sets a positive example, investing close to $200 million in green bonds in 2020—bonds that invest in green, sustainable, and renewable investments—making the Philippines the third largest green bond issuer in Asean with over $2 billion.

Mobilizing similar better investment is crucial to recovery success, which requires incentives to attract domestic and foreign capital. For instance, the proposed amendments to the Foreign Investment Act could incorporate incentives to redirect foreign investment to green recovery opportunities like renewable energy and electric vehicle production.

This can be accelerated with a “whole-of-government” approach. Fast-tracking government efforts to promote green jobs, preparing the human resources needed, and monitoring and supporting these mechanisms are necessary. Together with the proposed Philippine Action Plan for Sustainable Consumption and Production, they will set a momentum for greener recovery while propelling the country toward its climate targets.

Timely action by the government must be matched with investments by others, including the private sector. Businesses, development partners, labor organizations, and civil society play crucial roles in aligning efforts with the national green recovery agenda, the Paris Agreement, and the Sustainable Development Goals.

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Furthermore, ensuring a green recovery requires the need to introduce support to micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) in the Philippines—those most impacted by COVID-19—and increase their participation in green and inclusive recovery, as they are the backbone of the economy.

The UNDP and ILO aim to support these MSMEs through innovative financing, as well as providing business development and forecasting tools that will enable planning and transition to sustainable and more resilient economic opportunities.

While the pandemic has disrupted our ways of life, the recovery effort offers a unique opportunity to change the course of development in the Philippines toward a human-centered, greener future, and leave a legacy for the next generations of Filipinos and the world.

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Dr. Selva Ramachandran is the UNDP Philippines resident representative, and Khalid Hassan is the ILO Philippines country director.

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TAGS: COVID-19, job, pandemic, UNDP survey, Unemployment, United Nations Development Programme
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