Amid typhoons, DOF chief pitches urgent reforestation
FINANCE Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III has joined calls for forest restoration and conservation following the devastation caused by the recent typhoons.
Dominguez, recently appointed by President Duterte as chairman of the Climate Change Commission (CCC), said the Philippines loses billions every year in damage to crops and infrastructure, which dampen the country’s overall economic progress.
The country’s finance chief noted that five strong typhoons in the last five weeks wreaked havoc in 12 out of 17 regions of the country, and claimed dozens of lives on top of damage to their livelihoods and properties.
“Our recent experiences with severe weather events underscore the urgency—as well as the complexity— of our tasks. In the midst of a protracted battle against Covid-19, we are beset by challenges that are symptoms of a long-term climate crisis,” he said in his prerecorded message to the CCC as it celebrated the 13th Climate Change Consciousness Week.
“An integral part of our disaster risk reduction strategy should be the restoration and conservation of existing forests. It is time to update our agroforestry policies to prevent the clearing of mountain slopes to make way for agriculture,” added Dominguez, a former agriculture secretary.
On Thursday, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council reported that damage to infrastructure brought by Typhoon Ulysses alone has risen to P6.1 billion, while damage to agriculture is now at P4 billion.
In the same forum, Dominguez also prodded the CCC to more “aggressively advocate protection of the environment” and “advance concrete proposals while building public awareness and public support.”
“I also urge the Commission to help us pursue climate justice from the international community. The Philippines is definitely not one of the world’s heaviest emitters of greenhouse gases, but it is undoubtedly among the most vulnerable to their harmful effects,” he said.
On top of this, he said the Covid-19 crisis can also be used as an opportunity to tailor-fit economic recovery programs to mobilize investments in domestic renewable energy, sustainable urban planning and climate-smart agriculture.
“Our rule should be simple: projects that are not green and sustainable should not see the light of day,” he said.
He cited the need for the government to ensure the coherence of national and local strategies for adaptation, mitigation, disaster risk reduction and sustainable development, as well as the deployment of financial tools to build resiliency from the household to the national levels.
“The Philippines is well-positioned to make a difference in this battle against the climate crisis. Let us work hand in hand to achieve a new, low-carbon economy and a greener future for all,” he said.
On Monday, the Asean Centre for Biodiversity said it is also high time to push for the restoration of degraded ecosystems and conservation of existing ones as part of disaster reduction strategies.
ACB Executive Director Theresa Mundita S. Lim said natural ecosystems like the Sierra Mountain Range in the Philippines, which runs from Cagayan province in the north to Quezon province in the south and is strategically located in the Philippines’s eastern seaboard, require protection.
Lim also noted that Sierra Madre can weaken strong weather disturbances and absorb large amounts of rainfall.
In his speech at the plenary session of the 37th Association of Southeast Asian Nations Summit last week, President Duterte also called on other vulnerable countries like the Philippines to demand climate justice from developed nations, which are the most responsible for fueling the climate crisis.
He said developed countries are morally bound to cut their carbon emissions to prevent severe climate-related disasters.