Friday, October 30, 2009

LOREN, An Iron Butterfly

She maybe a butterfly, yes, but Loren Legarda is not the kind of butterfly sashaying around the sweet and scented political garden like most nectar sucking bees do to advance their own political end.

Maybe she is more than a butterfly to many presidentiables that’s why she is sandwiched in their tug of war. Maybe majority of local chief executives in the provinces are convinced that a tandem with Loren Legarda will make the chances of administration bet bloom like wild flowers in the polls.

Like a butterfly, Loren Legarda exudes a magnetic field to flora and fauna in the political arena. Maybe because of her ironed and principled nature as a person that she has always been lured to join from one party to another. They believed and respected the credibility and advocacy of Loren - that is the simple equation.

Now, that she is orphaned by the sudden decision of her party mate Chiz Escudero and presidential hopeful to bolt NPC, Loren is geared up like an iron butterfly to rally her party mates in the NPC.

In this time of uncertainty and adversity, we need a decisive and respected individual to lead this country. We need an iron butterfly that can pollinate the democratic vineyard and adapt to a changing environment not noisy buzzing bees swarming around to pollute the minds of the people and extract them dry.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Loren urges for more government support for local agriculture to compete

PASSI CITY, Iloilo, Oct. 29 - Sen. Loren Legarda today urged for more government support and “safety nets” for agricultural industries, including sugar, in the light of the free trade agreement among members of the Southeast Asia Nations (ASEAN).

Loren made the appeal in the light of the of the signing of the ASEAN Trade in Goods Agreement (ATIGA) during the 14th ASEAN Ministers’ summit in Thailand on February 26, 2009, drastically lowering tariffs on agricultural products like rice and sugar in ASEAN trade.

“The industry needs to brace itself for the impact of trade liberalization within the ASEAN,” said Loren, referring to the agreement. While the objective is to establish a free flow of goods in the ASEAN market, Philippine agricultural products like sugar and rice will be placed at a disadvantage in the short run because of their being uncompetitive.”

The Philippines is the world’s biggest rice importer, importing rice mostly from Vietnam and Thailand, while the Philippines’ sugar production has been on a decline.

“Economic integration can be a two-edged sword. There is hope that our commitments to the ATIGA will provide the impetus for our industries to align themselves along areas of competitive advantage in the long run. However the adjustment process in the immediate term is quite worrisome, especially in the light of the impending fiscal crisis and the havoc wreaked on our agriculture by the recent natural disasters,” said Loren.

Addressing the 39th annual meeting of the Jalasig Sugarcane Planters Association here, Loren, who is the chair of the Senate committee on food and agriculture, warned that unless “we succeed in listing sugar in the highly sensitive list, tariff on imported sugar under the AFTA will be slashed from 38% to 28% in 2010.

“Even if we succeed, the measure will provide only transitory relief. Beyond the short term, our government needs to overcome the utter neglect that has characterized its past performance, and provide real safety nets and support mechanisms that will help agriculture become competitive. That is my vision for the sugar industry, and for Philippine agriculture as a whole.”

The Philippines is also negotiating with Thailand for a 35 percent tariff on rice imports, while Thailand wants the Philippines to cut the tariff to 20 percent. This would place the local rice industry under a graver threat from more massive rice importations as the world’s largest importer of the staple.

Lower tariffs on Philippine agricultural products would place them at a disadvantage in competition with similar products from ASEAN countries because of the higher cost of local agricultural production. This would give less incentive for Filipino farmers to produce more to cover the local market.

In the case of the sugar sector, Loren noted that there has been a decline in sugar production.

“I understand that this year has been relatively benign for the domestic sugar industry. Philippine Sugar Millers Association President (PSMA) Archimedes Amarra said that we already completed shipments to US on March 20, 2009 and by the end of 2009 we could ship to the world market 100,000 metric tons. He assures us that that there is enough supply to cope with the demand even though production has been declining due to high input costs.

“Actual sugar production at 2.197 million metric tons has enabled the country’s ending inventory of domestic sugar to regain reasonably normal levels. However this is a big dip from the 2007/2008 crop year output of 2.45 million metric tons …”

Loren said that as chairperson of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, she had initiated measures aimed at reshaping government policy towards agriculture.

“At the end of my term, I hope to leave behind a legacy that will promote competitiveness in agriculture. This legacy consists of three major pieces of legislation, namely the Agricultural Extension Bill, the Agri Agra Bill which has already passed the Bicameral Conference Committee, and the reorientation and restructuring of the budget of the Department of Agriculture,” said Loren.

Under the agricultural extension bill which she is sponsoring, Loren hopes to further strengthen and expand agricultural extension aid to farmers by providing more incentives such as higher salaries and more technical equipment to the country’s 20,000 extension workers. These workers spread more knowledge and technical expertise to farmers in improving their production.

The Agri-Agra bill would provide more credits to farmers and agricultural workers through the private commercial banks by amending the presidential decree currently governing such loans, enabling banks to provide easier credits to agriculture.

Loren wants to provide more budgetary support to critical areas of agriculture and fisheries to increase production and provide more income farmers and fisherfolk.


Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Luntiang Pilipinas Revisited

A nationwide forestry program committed to the promotion of environmental protection.


The deterioration of the country's forest areas is the root of our water crisis, flooding and imbalanced ecosystem.

Illegal loggers plundern hardwood wherever they are: in precious and life-giving watershed areas, and even in protected areas like our national parks and forest reservations.

Most of our 125 proclaimed watershed areas are covering a total of 1.5M hectares have been classified as deteriorating or dying. We lose 1.4 percent of our forest cover every year.

Total protected area is only 2.5 million hectares or just 9 percent of total land area of the country. Protection is mostly nominal. There is only one forest guard for every four thousand hectares.


Luntiang Pilipinas is a nationwide tree-growing program that seeks to create Forest Parks in urban areas- in national and local government centers, school grounds, chruch yards and along roadsides.

The foundation envisions itself in the next ten years to be catalyst in the protecting and preserving the environment through the:

- Creation of an atmosphere for a sustainable Green Philippines.
- Institutionalization of a Corps of Green Crusaders among Filipinos, especially the youth to sustain the environmental program.
- Effecting change in values and attitudes through environmental information, education, and communication (IEC) and;
- Intensification of multi-stakeholder cooperation in sustainable development.


It was on October 28, 1998 when Luntiang Pilipinas was launched by Senator Loren Legarda at the Rizal Park. It was institutionalized and operationalized as a complementing private initiative program on nationwide urban forestry with the primary aim of raising the level of consciousness of Filipinos to the value of trees.


This involves the development of Forest Parks in provinces, cities, municipalities and barangays nationwide and every conceivable areas such as church yards , town plazas, and many other available places. The partnership with the local government units is vital in institutionalizing environmental awareness and management in local governance. A number of Memoranda of Agreement have been entered into by Luntiang Pilipinas with various LGUs, NGOs and POS to effectively carry out the objectives of the program.


This is part of the strategic approach of bringing the concept of environmental protection to the youth by creating Forest Parks in school campuses.


The project calls for the creation of the Forest Park in each of the 52 loops of the 127-Kilometer stretch NSEW from Calamba, Laguna to Dau, Pampanga by planting 12, 000 to 15, 000 trees in each loop. At the same time trees are planted two to four meters apart depending on the tree specie. This is a joint undertaking with the Philippine National Construction Corporation (PNCC)and the Manila North Tollways Corporation.


The inauguration of the Buendia Center Island Forest Park project gave impetus to the launching this new environmental endeavor. With the support and assistance of the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority and the mayors if the cities and municipalities in the National Capital Region, this project aims to create Forest Parks in selected traffic islands in various parts of Metro Manila.


Senator Loren Legarda has been hailed as a "Green Crusader" because of her staunch advocacy of environmental issues, particularly those pertaining to forest and marine resources. As a legislator, she has authored and co-authored two landmark environmental legislattions: the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act (RA 9003).

In 2001, Loren was elected to the prestigious Global 500 Roll of Honor for environmental Achievement by the United Nations Environment Program in Turin, Italy and to the Global Leaders of tomorrow (GLTs) for 2000 by the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. She was also awarded by the Priyadarshni Academy in India for her exemplary contributions to the environment. She was a Likas Yaman (Natural Treasure) awardee of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources for her outstanding work as founding chair of the Save Our Seas (SOS) and Trees for Life Foundations.

As a broadcast journalist for more than 20 years, she championed the cause for a more healthful ecology for heightening public awareness of environmental problems through her television programs "Pep Talk" and "The Inside Story". Her subsequent newsmagazine program "Earth Link" became the first television documentary series on the environment and was awarded both the KBP Golden Dove Award and the EarthSavers Media Award on its maiden season.

Senator Loren continues to fight for Mother Nature and with your help, we will make our environment greener, in a more progressive and healthy Philippines.


More than TWO MILLION TREES have been planted in approximately 5oo Hectares across the country visible in 33 provinces, 28 cities and 84 municipalities made possible through assistance of over 240 institutional partners including 28 corporate donors and benefactors, 22 national government agencies, 21 non-governmental organizations (NGO), 22educational institutions, two international/foreign entities and countless individuals backed up by a well planned information, education and communication (IEC) campaign with the primary aim of raising the level of consciousness among Filipinos to the value of trees.

Loren Legarda

Friends in media, and her staff, texted me about Loren Legarda's planned declaration of candidacy at the Luneta Park last Friday. Loren right now stands to be a lone voice on the issue of climate change. That of course may change with the kind of "awakening" that we got from Ondoy and Pepeng. Candidates may now find it a worthy way to get more votes, especially in the hotly-contested and Ondoy-devasted Metro Manila.

So let's give Loren five green point for the simple reason of thinking ahead of the pack.Come to think of it, this means she has the foresight, the vision if you may, compared to other candidates whose campaigns are still anchored on cheesy messiahnic message of "lalaban tayo." Eh sino lalabanan mo?

Thousands gathered at the Luneta: not the kind of mob that televangelists usually gather, but impressive nonetheless as these are people she's been with in the past post-Ondoy weeks: the people of Potrero, Malabon; Lupang Arenda in Rizal - whose houses are threatened to obscurity by the overflowing Laguna Lake -- and the Moslem community of Quiapo. People from her political bailiwicks Batangas and Ilocos were also there.

Loren did not do what was expected of her during her speech. She did not reveal her intentions for 2010 during her speech but admitted later - in a press conference - that she is gunning for the vice presidency.

Many thought - me included - that she would still insist on running as president of the country which she stressed is the best platform for pursuing preparations for climate change. She may have probably realized that she has a better chance of getting what she wants done by pairing with a stronger candidate, who has the same vision.

That is something we will eagerly await for. Who will be Loren's number 1 and will the environment be a crucial part of his platform?

I've requested my friends involved in Loren's campaign for a copy of her speech. I wish to see it in detail, although I have a general idea of her platform.

Anyway, in that same morning, Loren came to witness the signing of the Climate Change Act in Malacanang. While Ondoy and Pepeng made these bills more urgent than ever, let's give Loren five more green points for the kind of work she put to get the bill passed. It is not easy to get a bill passed if you're a big opposition name and a serious presidential contender.


Implement Law On Climate Change Adaptation

Speaking at the National Conference on Climate Change Adaptation, Senator Loren Legarda today called for the serious implementation of her landmark legislation that will strengthen our country’s efforts in addressing the greatest humanitarian challenge, climate change.

“The passage of the Climate Change Act, could not have come to a time more ideal than today. And I am pleased to be with you again to further discuss this landmark legislation,” said Loren who chairs the Senate Committee on Climate Change.

The filing of this measure two years ago took inspiration from the Albay Declaration, the outcome document of the First National Conference on Climate Change Adaptation, as it called for “the passage of a policy prioritizing climate change adaptation in the national agenda”.

“The ensuing discussions on the threats of climate change to our basic human rights - food, potable water, shelter, decent livelihood and life itself, have occupied us for some time now. In response to these impacts, vulnerable countries like the Philippines should ramp up efforts to enhance the resilience of our people,” laments Loren.

She added, “Special attention should be given to the poorest of the poor, who are also the most vulnerable to the scourge of disasters. They are the small farmers, fisherfolk, upland dwellers, urban squatters living on riverbanks, forestlands, seashores, and low-lying areas. Without planning and assistance, more will lose their lives, homes and farms that make up their life's possession. Just a single extreme weather event can derail the achievement of our Millennium Development Goals' target.”

“While climate change has recently been at the forefront of international and local discourse, it is perhaps only now that we have seen its devastating impacts,” said Loren, citing the consequences of typhoons Ondoy and Pepeng.

She said it took these two calamities “for us to realize the urgent need to confront the drivers of our vulnerability to disasters and climate change – poor urban governance, vulnerable rural livelihoods and ecosystems decline – in order to save lives and secure livelihoods.”

Climate Change Act will build resilience to the impacts of climate change. The Commission on Climate Change shall be the sole policy-making body of the government tasked to coordinate, monitor and evaluate the programs and action plans of the government relating to climate change.

The Climate Change Act mandates the Commission to:

1. Coordinate and synchronize climate change programs of national government agencies;

2. Recommend key development investments in climate-sensitive sectors such as water resources, agriculture, forestry, coastal and marine resources, health, and infrastructure to ensure the achievement of national sustainable development goals;

3. Create an enabling environment that shall promote broader multi-stakeholder participation and integrate climate change mitigation and adaptation;

4. Coordinate and establish a close partnership with the National Disaster Coordinating Council in order to increase efficiency and effectiveness in reducing the people’s vulnerability to climate-related disasters; and

5. Formulate the Framework Strategy and Program on Climate Change, the National Climate Change Action Plan and facilitate local action plans.

The Climate Change Act puts the local governments in the frontline of the formulation, planning and implementation of climate change action plans which includes risk reduction, in their respective areas speeding up the capacity building for local adaptation planning, implementation and monitoring of climate change initiatives in vulnerable communities.

Further, the new legislation places disaster risk reduction as the first line of defense against climate change risks. Recognizing that climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction are closely linked and effective disaster risk reduction enhances climate change adaptive capacity, the measure will ensure the integration of disaster risk reduction into policies, programs and initiatives on climate change.

The Climate Change Act, the first in Asia, sums up the country's great resolve to take the issue of climate change very seriously. It goes to show that we value above everything else the welfare of our people through the protection of the world where we all live.

“This law is for us, our children and the generations after them. Ensuring its full implementation is the great challenge and responsibility posed to us all,” said Loren.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Dealing with climate change

I am very happy, as so many others are too, that President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo signed into law the Climate Change Act of 2009.

The Inquirer’s front page shows Sen. Loren Legarda beaming with joy after her bill was signed by the President and finally we have a law that would define and prescribe to our people and government concrete ways to protect the environment and deal with the effects of climate change.

For the past number of years, we have seen the failure of government agencies tasked to protect our environment. These agencies, in many instances, were even accused of asiding with institutions out to destroy what is left of our forests to the consternation of many honest but much maligned environmentalists.

I would like to think the anger of local government units and the public against envrionmentalists is misplaced. These green crusaders are here basically to speak in behalf of the planet that cannot protect itselft against abuse. We must be grateful for them for looking out for the protection of the public from possible ill effects of harardous elements dumped in our localities.

One thing is clear: nobody has the right to dump garbage just anywhere. There is a need for us to prepare for the impact of climate change and find ways to mitigate it. What happened in central and northern Luzon areas, which were badly hit by typhoons Ondoy and Pepeng, should serve as a wakeup call for the entire country.

Even weathermen are confused by the way the new typhoon, “Ramil” is behaving. These past few days it they’ve had a hard time forecasting its path and its speed. Recent typhoons are more powerful, destroying dwellings, livelihood and lives.

I could have a litany of violations of environmental laws committed by citizens and government agencies, but what’s important now is to act and act swiftly.


GMA signs Climate Change Act

President Arroyo holds up a copy of the Climate Change Act of 2009 after she formally signed it into law at Malacanang’s Ceremonial Hall yesterday. Looking on are (from left) Sen. Loren Legarda, Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, Laguna Rep. Maria Evita Arago, Mandaluyong Rep. Neptali Gonzales Jr., Paranaque Rep. Roilo S. Golez, and Ilocos Sur Rep. Eric Singson. Willy Perez

| Zoom MANILA, Philippines - President Arroyo approved yesterday a law seeking to lessen the impact of climate change in the Philippines.

Meanwhile, Britain warned yesterday that the country would experience more typhoons, floods, droughts, heat waves and crop production shortages as a result of climate change.

Republic Act 9729, the Philippine Climate Change Act of 2009, creates a powerful body that would formulate and implement plans for the country to better prepare for and respond to natural disasters.

It also aims to attract foreign financing for adaptation and risk reduction projects.

Mrs. Arroyo signed the bill into law at Rizal Hall in MalacaƱang with members of Congress, diplomats, local officials, business leaders, environment advocates, the academe, and religious leaders in attendance.

“The signing into law of the Climate Change Act of 2009 ushers in a new era in the way the Philippines will tackle climate change in both the short and long terms, for the benefit of Filipinos today and for Filipinos yet unborn,” Mrs. Arroyo said in a statement.

The law creates the Climate Change Commission, a policy making body attached to the Office of the President tasked with coordinating, monitoring and evaluating programs and action plans relating to climate change.

Headed by the President, the four-member commission will be autonomous and shall have the same status as a national government agency.

Members of the commission must be experts in the field and will hold office for six years and may be reappointed, provided that no person shall serve for more than two consecutive terms.

Backed by a panel of technical experts, the commission has six months upon the law’s effectivity to come up with the National Framework Strategy and Program on Climate Change.

The commission’s advisory board will be composed of heads of concerned government departments as well as representatives from the academe, the business sector, non-government organizations, and from the disaster-risk reduction community.

In a statement, British Embassy charge d’affaires Colin Crorkin said storm “Ondoy” and typhoon “Pepeng” gave a glimpse of what’s in store if climate change is neglected.

“The UK congratulates the Philippine government’s step in the right direction with the Climate Change Act, which was signed into law by Pres. Arroyo today,” he said.

Crorkin was citing a new map illustrating the global consequences of failing to keep climate change in check.

“Food shortage, disease and conflict as a result become very real possibilities,” he said.

“We also welcome the Philippines’ strong stand on climate change issues in the international stage.”

The new map was launched today by the UK Government, with 45 days to go before international climate change talks begin in Copenhagen.

British ministers are pressing for the most ambitious deal possible in order to avoid these dangerous impacts.

The map, launched at the Science Museum by UK Foreign Secretary David Miliband, Climate and Energy Secretary Ed Miliband, along with the UK’s Chief Scientist John Beddington, was developed using the latest peer-reviewed science from the Met Office Hadley Centre and other leading impact scientists.

The poster highlights some of the impacts that may occur if the global average temperature rises by four degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial climate average.

Ahead of December’s international climate change talks in Copenhagen, the Government is aiming for an agreement that limits climate change as far as possible to 2 degrees Celsius. Increases of more than 2 degrees will have huge impacts on the world.

The poster shows that the average land temperature will be 5.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels. The impacts on human activity shown on the map are only a selection of those that may occur, and highlight the severe effects on water availability, agricultural productivity, extreme temperatures and drought, the risk of forest fires and sea level rise.

Paranaque Rep. Roilo Golez, principal author of RA 9729 in the House of Representatives, said an executive director to be appointed by the President would head the commission’s technical staff.

“It is hoped that a technically competent person with solid climate change and science credentials will be appointed executive director,” he said.

Golez said the first challenge for the commission is participation in the climate change conference in Copenhagen in December.

“Developing countries are worried that reducing carbon emissions would hinder their growth, while developed nations do not want climate change measures to slow down their economies and change the lifestyle of their peoples,” he said.– With Donnabelle Gatdula, Pia Lee-Brago, Jess Diaz


Senator Loren Legarda may not be a trapo, but she’s smart and media-savvy.

When she announced her vice presidential aspirations, she did not (intentionally, I think) mention whom she’ll be running with. That started a flurry of media speculations that she may opt to run with administration Lakas-Kampi candidate Gilbert “Gibo” Teodoro, and even with Nacionalista Party standard-bearer, former Senate President Manny Villar.

Loren keeps on saying that she’ll remain with the opposition, but that did not stop media from speculating that she may not run with Senator Chiz Escudero of the Nationalist People’s Coalition.

All in all, Loren’s move boosted her stock. She drove home the point that she’s a candidate to contend with for the vice presidency.

Personally, I believe that Loren will give the other vice presidential hopefuls like Senator Mar Roxas and Makati Mayor Jojo Binay a run for their money. Note that in previous senatorial elections, Loren was always no. 1.


Monday, October 26, 2009

Implement 20-Year Old Rainwater Collection Law

In the wake of twin typhoons Ondoy and Pepeng, and in preparation for upcoming typhoon Ramil, Senator Loren Legarda today called for the urgent implementation of the law mandating the collection of rainwater in all barangays. This would prevent flooding and ensure the continuous provision of clean water during dry seasons.

“If even half of the barangays in Manila had rainwater collection systems in place, there would be virtually no flooding during rainy seasons. And during dry seasons, we would have enough water to distribute despite the dropping water tables that cause problems in summer,” said Legarda, chair of the Senate Committee on Climate Change.

RA 6716 provides for the construction of water wells, rainwater collectors, development of springs and rehabilitation of existing water wells in all barangays in the Philippines. A Barangay Waterworks and Sanitation Association shall be formed to operate and maintain the rainwater collection facilities. A rainwater collection facility has the following components: catchment, treatment and distribution. Rainwater is collected in rooftops, then purified in a central treatment system to be pumped, finally, to various water lines.

“We don’t even have to make a new law. We just have to implement an existing one. This 20-year old law solves two problems at once: flooding and water shortages,” she emphasized.

“Rainwater is a clean and costless source of water. A rain water collection system is not that expensive to install and once the initial investment is recouped everything is free.”

Ondoy brought 410mm of rain to the city of Manila over a total land area of 14.9 square miles. If collected, this could supply water to critical areas in Metro Manila experiencing seasonal water problems. In some middle class subdivisions, the faucets flow only for a few hours every day, and for some, every other day.

Metro Manila is one of nine major cities identified as “water-critical” in a study by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA). The other 8 cities are Metro Cebu, Davao, Baguio, Angeles, Bacolod, Iloilo, Cagayan de Oro and Zamboanga.

“Climate change puts new pressures on our natural resources, and affects the way we distribute resources in entirely new and unpredictable ways. With the Philippines becoming increasingly vulnerable to extreme weather, rainwater collection is a simple and cost-effective way to secure precious water resources. Government should lead water conservation and push for green building,” she said.

Protect RP Agri Sector From Unfair Trade

Senator Loren Legarda today warned that the Philippines is set to lose P100 from noncompetitive products if it concedes to the ASEAN Trade in Goods Agreement (ATIGA) which will eliminate tariffs and non-tariff barriers for trade among ASEAN nations. She emphasized that the agriculture sector is especially vulnerable if said agreement is signed.

“While agriculture is recognized as the most vital industry to fight hunger and poverty, it is also the sector with the highest level of trade distortions. After we have suffered P18.4 billion in agriculture damage from Ondoy and Pepeng, we cannot afford to lose out further in our agriculture sector because of trade imbalance,” said Loren, chairman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture.

Legarda stressed that the ATIGA should not come into full force without the ratification of the Senate, and that it should follow the constitution and the country’s laws.

“Before the Philippines concedes to this agreement, wider consultations should be done. With the Philippines being a primarily agricultural country, the sector contributes a fifth of our total GDP, providing jobs and support to tens of thousands of families, and almost one half of our labor force. It is a sector that must be protected because the livelihood of thousands of Filipino farmers depend on it,” she said.

Among the important concerns on the agreement is the lack of public consultations. It is required under Philippine tariff and customs laws, as well as under the setup of the Senate Committee on Trade that before negotiating a trade policy position, public hearings should be made so that the people could voice out their concerns over a pending trade agreement.

“We live today in an open trade regime where quality products at competitive prices are required to sell in the market. The farming sector needs safety nets to cushion it from the impact of liberalized trade in the agriculture sector,” said Legarda.

She pointed out that huge domestic support and export subsidies provided by developed countries to their farmers render developing countries' farm products uncompetitive.

“Contrary to WTO principles, advanced countries give their farmers huge subsidies, which developing countries cannot afford, thus creating an unfair playing field. The ATIGA will have an across-the-board impact on trade in agriculture if it is signed without first applying the necessary safety nets,” she said.

She added, “agriculture in developed countries is a big, integrated business. In addition, they are awash with subsidies from government. Developing countries like the Philippines simply cannot afford to provide its farmers the same subsidies that developed countries grant them. As a result of unfair trade, developing countries are inherent losers.”

ATIGA was endorsed by the AFTA Council in August 2008, and signed by its parties during the ASEAN Summit in February 2009.

“Free trade has not worked because it has never actually happened: trade agreements of the past have been neither free nor fair. They have been asymmetric, opening up markets of developing countries to goods from the advanced industrial countries without full reciprocation,” she said.


Good Governance Vital to Climate Change Adaptation

Sen. Loren Legarda, chair of the Senate committee on climate change adaptation, yesterday stressed the need for good governance for communities to meet the challenges of climate change and reduce disaster casualties and damage.

“Development cannot be focused only on economic gains without the accompanying responsibility of good governance. Development should not create risks for our people and our economy. We need to ensure the resilience of our development investments,” said Loren.

In a “Global Assessment Report on Disaster Risk Reduction 2009: Executive Brief”, Loren said, “The world as a whole must act immediately to seize and reduce disaster risks. For the global picture has been grim. The world in the year 2008 alone saw 321 disasters which killed about a quarter of a million people and affected more than 200 million lives.

“The total economic cost was a stunning 180 billion US dollars, which is twice the average annual economic losses of the past seven years. And the region of the
Asia and the Pacific has borne much of the brunt, accounting for more than 80 percent of the global loss of life.

“About 70 to 80 per cent of disasters have been climate-related. And yet, given the gloomy scenario of climate change, more disasters are expected to happen. Indeed, climate change and disaster risks have become one of the greatest challenges to human development the world faces today.”

Based on the recently released Global Assessment Report on Disaster Risk Reduction, Loren stated, disaster risks will only be reduced if countries successfully address the three underlying drivers of risk: poor urban governance, ecosystem decline, and vulnerable rural livelihoods.

“If these drivers are not addressed, climate change will lead to dramatic increases in disaster risk and associated poverty outcomes in developing countries,” Loren warned. She cited the stagger ravages of typhoons Ondoy and Pepeng in
Luzon to illustrate her warning.

Explaining further, Loren said that improving urban governance involves stopping corruption and enforcing building codes, among others; protecting ecosystems which involves protecting forests, cleaning rivers, and stopping pollution, among others; and enhancing rural livelihoods means improving agricultural productivity and supporting farmers better.

For good governance, she cited
Japan were 22.5 million people are exposed annually to typhoons, compared to 16 million people in the Philippines. However, the estimated annual death toll in the Philippines is almost 17 times greater than that of Japan. Overall, tropical cyclone mortality risk in low-income countries is approximately 200 times higher than in countries of the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), for similar numbers exposed.

“Although we tend to focus only on the big disasters … the report has highlighted that it is the smaller disasters – the ones that kill less than 10 people and destroy less than 10 houses – which we should be especially wary about. This kind of disasters is on the rise – turbocharged by climate change. They diminish our capital, especially for the poor – human, economic, social and environmental capital – making us less resilient and unable to resist disasters and any crisis a typical household may face, be it disease, loss of jobs or livelihoods,” Loren said.

“Poor rural livelihoods, dependent on rain-fed agriculture and on a single main harvest for annual food and income, are highly vulnerable to weather fluctuations and hazards, which can lead to crop or livestock loss. Poor and indebted households have little or no surplus capacity to absorb these losses and to recover,” she declared.

On ecosystems, she said, over the last century, the proportion of land area covered by forest in the
Philippines has fallen from 22 percent in 1990 to just 19.4 percent in 2000. As recorded, large area of forest lands were already converted to tree plantation, mining and marginal upland agriculture which gave a 1.4 per cent average deforestation rate from 1990 to 2000, the highest among Asian countries.

Loren urges climate change act's full implementation

“A triumph for all Filipinos. A bold measure to ensure that our countrymen need not feel helpless against the devastation and disasters caused by climate change-related natural calamities.”

So said an ecstatic Senator Loren Legarda yesterday following the signing into law in MalacaƱang of the Climate Change bill which she authored and filed in 2007 to mainstream climate change actions and initiatives into government’s policies and programs.

“It was a long and arduous battle on my part to see through the passage of this law. But since man can never really measure up to the wrath of Mother Nature, I humbly submit that this Climate Change Act is but a small step in the right direction,” said Loren.

“The important thing is for all of us to ensure that all of the provisions of this law are translated into positive and concrete actions so that we, as a people, would have all the necessary infrastructure, capabilities and resources to deal with the devastating effects of climate change,” she added.

The new law will mainstream climate change initiatives and action into Philippine policy formulation, development planning, and poverty reduction programs.

The senator cautioned that many well-meaning laws had gone to waste due to poor or non-implementation of their provisions or the watering down of their intent when translated into action by government.

She cited as example the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act, whose passage she shepherded during her first term as senator, but whose provisions on waste segregation and their proper disposal had not been strictly followed.

“Waste disposal, as can be seen from the garbage problems we have on our heavily silted river systems, bays, esteros and floodways, is at the core of the problem and is closely related to what should be done in helping mitigate the effects of climate change,” she said.

“We have crafted the necessary laws, right. But that’s winning just half the battle, because the proper implementation of pieces of laws holds the key.”

The law will also create a Commission on Climate Change, headed by the President and which would serve as the sole policy making body of the government, tasked to coordinate, monitor and evaluate the programs and action plans of the government relating to climate change.

“It was in November of 2007 that I filed this bill and through the help of our climate change experts, concerned government agencies and fellow legislators, we finally succeeded in having this signed after two years,” Loren recalls.

The senator said that the law would speed up the capacity-building for local adaptation planning, implementation and monitoring of climate change initiatives in vulnerable communities.

“Mainstreaming entails the integration of policies and measures that address climate change into development planning and decision-making,” said Loren, who chairs the Senate Standing and Oversight Committee on Climate Change.

“Climate change is a challenge that must be taken up by local and national governments for it is a reality that confronts our communities, families, our daily lives,” she said.

“It is here and now. It is both our debt and duty to the earth and our children’s children to make climate change our problem and solve it, not tomorrow, not in the next decade, but today. And we can do it.”


Loren Legarda: At Last, someone with a platform

Loren Legarda, whom everybody thought as a weak presidential candidate (despite having a very consistent 26% mass base support; higher than Erap’s and Chiz Escudero’s), got my admiration yesterday. Instead of perorating about her past feats as a legislator or her advocacy work, Loren provided us with a six point “Pro-Poor, Pro-People, Pro-God” agenda, which was devoid of all necropolitical imagery nor the self-serving halleluyas of ass-lickers.

At last, a candidate with a platform. We may not agree with what she thinks is the direction to take, but, I, personally, appreciate that Loren took the time to analyze Filipino society and provide the direction for us to take in the next six years (or even ten).

Which leads me to think—Loren, probably, is not just the best for the vice presidency; she deserves the Highest Post, really.

Damn all those who think that gender is a serious election issue. All these men who came before us, and that includes necropolitician Noynoy Aquino, did not even care to provide us with their visions. They only expressed their self-serving dreams, but nary anything about service or a road-map towards rehabilitating our damaged institutions.

All these men who said they want the presidency for themselves, treated us shabbily, even with disdain, thinking that campaigns are showbiz affairs and the great masses are an un-thinking lot and just a waste of their precious time telling us what they intend to do.

Loren was brave enough to provide us with her six-point agenda, opening herself up to brickbats later on, but at least, a platform by which we will then use to measure her competence and performance. For some, maybe, presenting your platform this early is perceived to be a political death trap. For a trapo-nian mind, with a 60’s upbringing, that exposes you to attacks. Never mind, says Loren. It is important to give importance to the People.

Some might even think that Loren is your ordinary political prostitute; but her Luneta speech proved that she is not. Loren has her own mind, acts based on her own analysis and shows a steely political will—all we aspire for for a presidentiable to have.

Not a dilly-dallying teka-teka like Gibo Teodoro, nor a worshipper of dead icons like Noynoy or as gangster-minded like an Erap or a posterboy of Big Business or Big Real Estate Business personified, Loren is presidentiable material. Sorry for those who want me to include jokers like Bayani Fernando who dreams of carving his own Nottingham or
La Mancha, or publicity-seekers like Gordon–these people do not deserve to be in the same sentence as she.

Whoever gets Loren to be his running mate is a very lucky man, indeed. You have brains and guts all rolled into one beautiful package. Even a Vilma Santos cannot top that.

Now, we can sleep soundly at night, thinking that should Erap win, we now have someone who will ascend the Highest post more competent than him.

I say, sige, Erap, sa iyo na ang pagka pangulo. At least, pag pumalpak ka ulit, merong Loren na papalit.


Sunday, October 25, 2009

Loren ‘plants seeds of hope’ at Luneta

LUNETA PARK (Oct. 23) – Senator Loren Legarda came back here tonight since planting a thousand tree seedlings as a newly elected senator in 1998, vowing this time to “plant the seeds of hope for all Filipinos” in whatever capacity or office they may ask her to serve them.

But after presiding over an outreach program that included a well-attended jobs fair and a medical mission, Loren said that she would rather not talk about political aspirations at this time despite the fact that all five presidential aspirants in the 2010 elections had asked her to be their vice presidential running mate at one point.

She emphasized that the recent calamities that had struck the country had made it inappropriate for anyone to be looking beyond helping the many suffering Filipinos “right here, right now.”

“My countrymen, it is here at Luneta that I planted a thousand trees in 1998 as part of my environmental advocacy. Since then, over two million trees had already been planted. Tonight, I ask you to join me in planting the seeds of hope for all of us,” Loren told thousands of her supporters and the beneficiaries of her outreach program dubbed Lingkod Loren.

“Here at the Luneta, the new Filipino will rise for a new and much better Philippines,” she said. Loren pointed out that with typhoons Ondoy and Pepeng bringing down Filipinos on their collective knees, there is no better time than now to show their resiliency in getting back on their feet.

“We grew up with the adage that it is during trying times that new hope swells among people with convictions and who truly believe that they would emerge stronger by facing the challenges before them,” she said in Filipino. She added that no Filipinos should wallow in poverty, without food and shelter, reduced to the inhuman conditions.

“We see too many of our people living in esteros and railways, looking for food on heaps of garbage, of babies sleeping on cardboards and of children living on wooden push carts.We see children who hold guns fighting in the countryside instead of being in school wielding papers and pens,” said Loren. We see too many of our youth who are prostituted and who no longer know what a good future means,” said Loren.

“My countrymen, I have seen the depths of where we have found ourselves as a people, and like all of you, I have gotten tired of seeing ourselves mired in this predicament. But to do nothing is the biggest sin that we could possibly commit, something that is not an option for this public servant,” Loren said.

The senator stressed the need not only to revive the Filipino spirit and belief in himself, but also his self-respect and sense of patriotism. “Let’s bring back the honor of our being Filipinos,” she said.

While letting her audience read between the lines of her speech on whether she would run for vice president next year, Loren nonetheless laid bare a veritable platform of governance anchored on a strong anti-corruption stance, honest-to-goodness public service, and a strong commitment to help mitigate the effects of climate change.

She first identified the long-pestering problems of the Philippines as poor urban governance marked by improper or non-enforcement of laws, vulnerability of livelihood source in rural areas, and ecosystems decline.

Loren then unveiled a multi-pronged approach in helping the Philippines prosper economically, achieve lasting peace including in war-torn Mindanao, and to improve the quality of life Filipinos.

In all, she identified seven “must-do” for the new administration that would come out of the 2007 elections.

For starter, she said the country’s resources, including government funds, must be geared towards affording all Filipinos housing, sanitation, potable water, access to medicines and proper health care, education for the youth and skills training for all who can contribute as part of the labor force.

Secondly, government must recognize the contributions of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) by facilitating their gainful employment, providing them ample protection against abuses and by continuously upgrading their skills and knowledge.

Thirdly, the new administration must really crack down on corruption which lays to waste limited resources, destroys institutions of government and undermines the trust of the people and even of the international community, including foreign investors.

Loren cited as a fourth area of concern the protection of the environment and the initiating of pro-active measures to address the problem of climate change and the disasters related to it.

“The rape of Mother Nature must stop. Otherwise, we would forever be facing her wrath. The threat of climate change is ever real and we have Ondoy and Pepeng to prove this, with the landslides, flashfloods, the siltation and overflowing of water systems,” she said.

Fifth, Loren said the country must forge genuine peace, especially in Mindanao, not only through law enforcement but through the resolution of the root causes of the conflicts in the countryside, poverty and social injustice to name a few.

She said government must always be ready to dialogue with groups engaged in the armed struggle like the NPA and the MILF because “they are not the enemies, but the poverty and helplessness being felt in the poorest of the poor Philippine communities.”

Lastly, she said that the Filipino culture and traits must be recognized, rejuvenated and passed on to future generations because they are what makes Filipinos as a people unique.

Source: The Official Website of Loren Legarda