In the Stratbase ADR Institute Special Study entitled “The Challenge of Managing 21st Century Pandemics Amidst the US-China Strategic Competition,” trustee and program convenor Dr. Renato C. De Castro emphasized that “while the global society grapples to control and eradicate the COVID-19 virus: it ignores the big picture that pandemics in the 21st century are on the rise, and that the global society needs to contain the process that drives them, not just the individual diseases.”
Climate change has emerged as one of the most critical environmental issues to confront humanity and is striking harder and more rapidly than expected. The World Health Organization considers climate change as “the greatest threat to global health in the 21st century.” Extreme climate swings have affected how the virus spreads and the manner the global economy responds. Likewise, the World Economic Forum Global Risk Report 2020 showed that “failure of climate change mitigation and adaptation” is the most significant risk that will impact us over the next 10 years.
Dr. De Castro stressed that the traditional concept of security must shift from its referent object of state’s security to that of people and must be people-centered. It must include new types and non-traditional security threats — international terrorism, environmental degradation, scarcity of natural resources, the growing population, and changing demographics — that deserve to be considered relevant and pressing to the national security agenda.
These non-traditional threats are very real for the Philippines, which is regarded as one of the most vulnerable countries to natural disasters and climate-related challenges due to its geographical location in the Pacific Ring of Fire and the Typhoon Belt. This makes the country as the ninth most at risk, worldwide, in terms of the occurrence of extreme weather events and fourth-most affected country in the past two decades, according to the World Risk Index 2020 and the United Nations (UN) Office for Disaster Risk Reduction, respectively.
However, with the systems and mechanisms in place, designed with assumptions of a future climate much the same as decades ago, the country is still unable to properly address not just the underlying driver of these problems, but also the prevailing impacts of climate change on our communities.
During the Stratbase ADR Institute Pilipinas Conference session themed “Towards Green Economic Recovery: Designing Climate Resilient and Sustainable Communities,” Undersecretary Analiza Teh of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources emphasized that “investments in nature-based solutions for resilience, policy reform, and capacity building became more evident and that creating a green recovery should incorporate and focus on the community’s resilience.”
Manila City Mayor Francisco “Isko” Moreno Domagoso also stressed that creating a green city is “no rocket science.” The government cannot do it alone and must partner with the private sector and technical persons.
Indeed, the private sector needs to actively take the lead as environment champions.
Fortunately, there are those who have led the way in this regard. The Philippine Disaster Resilience Foundation has a strategic partnership among stakeholders towards building livable and disaster-resilient communities across the country. The Philippine Green Building Council, likewise, has been campaigning for the transformation of building designs and construction into practices that are environmentally and socially responsible.
Coca-Cola Beverage Philippines, Inc., as part of its World Without Waste program, has recently earned the Board of Investment approval of its P2.3-billion PETValue recycling facility project. It also has returned 112% of the water it used in its products to the environment and the community through its water replenishment programs.
Meralco, the country’s largest power distributor, has committed to make sustainability its main agenda as it charts its green journey to help save the environment. Through its Powering the Good Life program, Meralco aims to prioritize five areas: direct emissions reduction, resource efficiency, waste management, community electrification, and workplace excellence.
Global brands like Unilever, have also committed to reduce plastic waste by working to make all of its packaging recyclable, reusable, or compostable by 2025. This is part of a larger effort captured by the Unilever Sustainable Living Program, which was launched in 2010. In pursuing these commitments, the company has been relentlessly working with the government, academe, industry groups, and various community-based organizations to develop sustainable packaging solutions.
Even the Chamber of Mines of the Philippines, through Towards Sustainable Mining (TSM), commits to go beyond its corporate responsibility to uplift people’s quality of life and reduce poverty in their host communities while contributing to the country’s socio-economic development.
Given today’s public health challenges, it can be easy to overlook the importance of the environment and climate change. However, as more people and responsible businesses see the interconnection between sustainability, our economy, and environment, more green investments, models, and initiatives are being integrated. Not only can these generate more jobs, and spur the economy, but also protect the environment in the long-term.
For the year 2021, a sustainable and green economy will only be possible by thinking differently. Our traditional and myopic view of our country’s security must expand to consider environment-centered, science-based, and forward-looking issues. Furthermore, without understanding how collaborative action is critical for our economy and environment, dealing with complex issues, such as sustainability and a greener economy, will not be possible.
All of us must embrace this new way of life.
Victor Andres “Dindo” C. Manhit is President of the Stratbase ADR Institute.