Friday, July 24, 2020

SONA 2020: Towards a Green Recovery for the Philippines

Wazzup Pilipinas!

We live in unprecedented times. The COVID-19 pandemic is an existential threat to human life, and has revealed to us the effects of our negative relationship with nature. There is opportunity for us to change, however. We must build a better, healthier, and greener normal, where we put science at the forefront of decision making, policy development, and infrastructure planning.

We urge the government, and all Filipinos, to protect our natural resources, to pursue sustainability in our food, water, and energy systems, and to promote local, indigenous production to reduce our reliance on external sources. We must work together to #ChangeTheEnding on this and future crises. Our Green New Recovery must start today.

As we all strive to address the immediate needs of this pandemic, we should not lose focus of the long-term needs of a sustainable Philippines. We need proper integration, implementation, consultation, and engagement in bringing economic, health, and environmental plans to fruition. Robust financing from local implementers and the banking sector can push positive environmental impacts even further. Transparency and alignment between national and local policies is needed to assist cities and municipalities in developing plans that protect their people. Through nationwide alignment, we can address our health and economic needs with nature-based solutions amidst this pandemic.

We need policies that integrate sustainability practices in the systems that provide our basic needs. National agencies must engage LGUs and the private sector for solutions that ensure resources are sustainably-managed and accessible to all, especially during these challenging times. Communal farms, watershed management activities, and distributed renewable energy solutions can ensure resource security. Filipinos have a right to nutritious food, clean water, and sustainable energy. It is imperative that we begin developing better resource systems.

We must create platforms and programs that will enable the youth to participate in governance and develop them as sustainability champions. We recommend the integration of Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) into our curriculum. We can train more future leaders by instilling sustainability principles in educational materials and making them accessible. Teachers and community leaders are allies in advocating for the environment, and we must train them to educate students, families, and communities on sustainable development.

We urge the government to promote low-carbon living and the establishment of safe, inclusive, and sustainable mobility solutions that are accessible to all. We need to pursue the development of bike lanes and pedestrian areas, to reduce our carbon footprint while allowing Filipinos to travel freely. We ask that the government ensure the protection and rehabilitation of our country’s carbon sinks. Safeguarding our forests and reefs and promoting circular solutions to address plastic pollution can pave a way toward a low-carbon future for the Philippines.

We ask the government to engage in efforts to improve societal health and resiliency. We need more public spaces that can adapt to the needs of communities, especially those that are marginalized. Long-term societal health must be explored as well - the development of green spaces and infrastructure can make our cities healthier and more livable.

Finally, our relationship with wildlife must change if we are to prevent future pandemics. Studies show that closeness to and consumption of wild animals leads to global pandemics such as the current one. Through stricter penalties on illegal wildlife trade and by educating communities on the dangers of wildlife consumption, we can better safeguard endangered species and our own health. Meanwhile, strong policies that combat environmental degradation can protect our ecosystems. Multi-stakeholder approaches are vital to ensure our health, and the health of our environment.

This pandemic will not be the last if we do not take serious action now. We need to build resilient post-pandemic communities to combat resource overconsumption and wildlife exploitation as we pave the way toward a green and just recovery. We recognize the impact COVID-19 has had on our country, and only through nature-based solutions can we start down the road of green recovery. We urge the government, and all Filipinos, to protect the environment today, so that we and future generations may enjoy a healthy tomorrow. Together responsible, together possible.

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