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Experts: Protecting environment, growing economy ‘not mutually exclusive’

By: - Content Researcher Writer / @inquirerdotnet
/ 05:06 PM June 27, 2022
Experts: Protecting environment, growing economy ‘not mutually exclusive’

IMAGE Jerome Cristobal

MANILA, Philippines—The pandemic has exacerbated the country’s most pressing yet already existing challenges pre-pandemic, namely poverty, joblessness, hunger and malnutrition, learning disruption, natural disasters, and climate change.

At a recent forum organized by the leading think-tank Stratbase ADR Institute, experts said that the country’s biggest issues will be best addressed through efficient use of resources.

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However, in order to do so, it is important not to see environmental sustainability as a separate objective from economic recovery and development.

“What I see is not a crisis but an opportunity,” said Professor Victor Andres “Dindo” Manhit, founder and managing director of The Stratbase Group during the online town hall discussion called “Promoting an Investment-Led and Sustainable Economy” held on June 23.

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“This is an opportunity to build a sustainable environment in partnership with the private sector, which has the capability to make investments that comply with international standards for ESG—environmental, social, and governance,” Manhit said.

SOME of the participants in the think tank Stratbase ADI’s recent forum. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Dr. Carlos Primo “CP” David, convenor of Philippine Business for Environmental Stewardship (PBEST), emphasized that the most pressing problems people face every day are solved by efficiently using resources—which he described as “precisely the basic tenet of sustainable development.”

“We need not separate environmental advocacy from solving pressing societal problems. But in doing this, the government needs to engage the private sector positively,” he said.

Major corporations usually compete commercially, but according to Rene “Butch” Meily—president of the Philippine Disaster Resilience Foundation—many of these companies collaborate to achieve a common goal before, during, and after disasters.

“It’s easier to work with the private sector if you’re not always asking them for money, but if you ask them to help in areas they’re already active in, whether it’s water or generators, planes or boats, and that’s how we all work in terms of preparing for emergencies,” said Meily.

Financing green projects, climate adaptation

At the same online forum, Dr. Jose Leviste Jr., chair of the Environment and Climate Change Committee of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry, mentioned the country’s first-ever Sustainable Finance Roadmap launched in October last year.

Leviste said the roadmap deploys engines of finance and green projects across the Philippines.

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Sustainable finance, according to Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas’ (BSP) circular on Sustainable Finance Framework, refers to “any form of financial product or service which integrates environmental, social, and governance criteria into business decisions that supports economic growth and provides lasting benefit for both clients and society while reducing pressures on the environment.”

“This also covers green finance, which is designed to facilitate the flow of funds toward green economic activities and climate change mitigation and adaptation projects,” the circular read.

In November last year, Finance Secretary and Climate Change Commission (CCC) chairman-designate Carlos Dominguez III presented the Sustainable Finance Roadmap before policymakers during the 26th United Nations (UN) Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26).

“Central banks and financial institutions should recognize their important role in contributing to the transition to a low-carbon economy,” said BSP Governor Benjamin Diokno in a statement.

“As stewards of the financial sector, we should all commit to act with urgency in achieving the desired emissions reduction targets and in promoting the sustainability agenda.”

READ: BSP to push for sustainable finance as part of COP26 deal

Last month, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) also approved a $250 million policy-based loan to support the Philippines in its climate change adaptation and mitigation efforts.

“This is ADB’s first climate action policy-based loan. It will support the Philippines develop, deliver, and finance a holistic approach to address climate change by transitioning to low-carbon pathways, strengthening the ability of vulnerable sectors to adapt to climate change, and increasing conservation of land and marine resources,” said ADB Vice President for East Asia, Southeast Asia, and the Pacific Ahmed M. Saeed.

READ: PH pushes ADB-supervised Asean info exchange on climate action

On being energy-independent

Amid the impact of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on fuel supply and prices, Institute of Corporate Directors Trustee lawyer Pedro Maniego Jr. stressed the importance of tapping the country’s vast renewable energy potential.

“What we are promoting is doing well by doing good. Is it possible? Is it doable? Certainly, it will require a new lens – steward leadership,” he said.

“It is a combination of leadership, which is the genuine desire and persistence to create a better future, and stewardship by creating value, integrating the needs of stakeholders and society.”

From January 1 to June 14, 2022, the Department of Energy recorded the following net increases in oil products (per liter):

  • Diesel: P41.15
  • Gasoline: P28.70
  • Kerosene: P27.95

READ: Suffering commuters, higher fare, fewer trips: PH transport woes pile up

On June 13, the Russian Ambassador to the Philippines Marat Pavlov said the Russian government is prepared to cooperate and help the Philippines in addressing high oil prices in the country.

“I repeat that in this turbulent period, we are ready to cooperate with the Filipino side and to extend our helping hands to satisfy the needs in sources of energy,” Pavlov said at a press briefing following his courtesy call on President-elect Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr.

READ: Russia to ‘extend helping hand’ to PH amid high oil prices — envoy

The environmental advocacy group Philippine Business for Environmental Stewardship (PBEST) has urged Marcos to expand the Retail Competition and Open Access (RCOA) provision of the Electric Power Industry Reform Act of 2021 to include electricity end-users who, despite having low consumption, can transition to renewable energy.

“Renewable energy is the future. It is our key to achieving power stability and resilience without being subject to external circumstances,” PBEST co-convenor engineer Felix Vitangcol said in a statement.

READ: Bongbong Marcos urged: Take bolder steps to expand access to renewable energy

Role of technology

For Microsoft’s National Technology Officer Dale Pascual Jose, technology plays a crucial role in sustainability efforts. He explained that protecting and building long-term value is not only about the volume of available data.

“It is the quality, including its timeliness and the ease of converting it into business decisions,” he said.

“It is essential that companies are able to effectively integrate data from various sources and then analyze them through technology.”

Last year, environment advocates from the government and private sectors urged the adoption of digital technologies to transform industries and government bureaucracies into sustainable enterprises.

Technology, said Environment Undersecretary for Finance, Information Systems, and Climate Change and lawyer Analiza Rebuelta-Teh, can accelerate the country’s climate action.

“ICT is very relevant in climate monitoring. Information pertaining to climate, weather, precipitation, pollution, and disasters is critically important in understanding climate change and its impact on the environment,” she said during an online Earth Day forum.

At the same forum, Manhit noted that innovative technologies will create a sustainable economic culture.

“The synergy of good policy, all-sectoral cooperation, and innovative technologies will create a sustainable economic culture that will build inclusive prosperity by responsibly harnesses our natural resources, effectively controlling pollution, integrating energy-efficient infrastructures, and administered under good governance and upright social values,” Manhit said.

“The Philippines must pursue a “green” and sustainable economy that would harness new innovations and strategies for economic growth, environmental stewardship, climate resilience, and public health,” he added.

READ: DENR, environmentalists urge use of digital technologies to boost climate action

Restoring, pushing for SDG progress

According to Elvin Uy, Executive Director of Philippine Business for Social Progress, leaders from different countries should prioritize the restoration and acceleration of each country’s respective SDG (Sustainable Development Goals) progress.

“Restoring and accelerating our SDG (Sustainable Development Goals) progress in all countries, including the poorest and most vulnerable, should be a major priority as the world and local economies gear towards post-COVID recovery and rebuilding and resilience,” he said.

As defined by the UN, SDGs are a “global call to action to end poverty, protect the earth’s environment and climate, and ensure that people everywhere can enjoy peace and prosperity.”

Among the goals the UN is currently working on in the Philippines include climate action, protection and preservation of the lives below water and on land, and the creation of sustainable cities and communities.

READ: How the UN is supporting The Sustainable Development Goals in Philippines

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