EDITORIAL - Confronting climate change

The Philippine Star
EDITORIAL - Confronting climate change

Addressing the United Nations General Assembly earlier this week, President Duterte expressed the sentiment of many nations that are struggling to procure COVID vaccines even for first doses while “selfish” wealthy states prepare to administer third-dose boosters to their people.

The President also made a valid point in calling for greater action from wealthy states to combat climate change. In this issue, however, it would be even better if the President looks in his own backyard first.

Scientists have said the Philippines is one of the countries most vulnerable to climate change. Coastal communities, many of which are dependent on fishing, are threatened by rising ocean temperatures and sea levels. In recent years, the country has been battered by unusually powerful tropical cyclones and deadly storm surges.

These problems have been compounded by the fact that the country has lost much of its forest cover due to illegal logging as well as destructive and unsustainable agro-forestry activities. Denuded mountains have led to torrential flooding and deadly landslides in the past years.

The country’s extensive coral reefs that are used as spawning grounds of fish and other marine life have been rapidly depleted by pollution, destructive fishing methods and illegal harvesting particularly in the West Philippine Sea, where mostly Chinese poachers operate.

In urban centers, weak enforcement of laws against pollution has resulted in continued poor air quality and serious flooding due to clogged and heavily silted rivers and waterways.

The Duterte administration has been successful in its cleanup of Boracay Island and several other popular coastal tourist destinations. Environment officials have also claimed progress in the challenging cleanup of Manila Bay and its tributaries starting with the Pasig River.

President Duterte has defended the controversial creation of a synthetic white beach using crushed dolomite in Manila parallel to Roxas Boulevard. More worrisome than the dolomite beach, however, is his administration’s approval of massive commercial reclamation projects the size of cities in Manila Bay, which could aggravate the flooding problem in the affected areas and obviously would be bad for the marine ecosystem.

The reclamation projects would negate the benefits derived from the creation of the only internationally protected wetland in the National Capital Region, the Las Piñas-Parañaque Critical Habitat and Ecotourism Area. The wetland is a solid example of commitment to global efforts to confront climate change. The President who calls out the UN on climate change should protect this commitment.

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