The COVID-19 Pandemic has put everything on hold– our work, our lives, our economy; and with so much time on our hands, this has given us the opportunity to reflect on the direction of the country. Brian Poe Llamanzares asks the question “will we use this time to build the roadmap to a better tomorrow?”
Having finished Columbia University’s Climate and Society program, Brian, in a speech delivered before industry leaders, discussed how the country’s sustainability agenda relates to how the Philippines can achieve a greener, more resilient and self-reliant economy.
He came up with the three pillars of sustainability.
First Pillar: The Attainment of Sustainability
The 28 year-old speaker stressed on the importance of sustainability specifically in agriculture and fresh water management.
The agricultural sector has greatly affected the country’s economy. According to Brian, agriculture has caused a drop in the Philippine’s GDP from 11.3% in 2015 to 9.2% this year.
The World Food Program has also expressed concerns over the effects of the of the pandemic on countries that are heavily reliant on food importation. Due to the decrease in exports from Vietnam and Thailand, the country’s rice importation projections have also experienced a 10% drop. For Brian, this “raises concern over rice self-sufficiency and the development of a robust agricultural economy in order to remain sustainable” despite external factors such as a global outbreak.
There are several ways to improve our agricultural outlook, however, freshwater management ranks high, says Brian. In 2019, the country’s capital experienced the worst water crisis due to delays in expansion of water management infrastructure and lack of construction of new water sources. “The lack of infrastructure plus a growing population and more frequent dry spells resulted in a devastating water crisis,” he said.
Moving forward, Senator Grace Poe has filed Senate Bill No. 942 “Protection of Watersheds for Irrigation Act,” which aims to properly manage freshwater sources by protecting, conserving and rehabilitating all the Watersheds supporting the National Irrigation System.
“Better management would lead to a stronger agricultural economy, increased food security, and more freshwater would be made available for the urban centers of the country,” he said.BRIAN POE LLAMANZARES, OFFICE OF SENATOR GRACE POE CHIEF OF STAFF
Second Pillar: Developing a more self-reliant energy sector using renewable energy and more energy efficient technologies
There are many renewable energy companies that are opening across the country due to the falling prices of renewable energy technologies. In an effort to support these start-ups “while attempting to address the rising demand for energy,” Senator Poe authored Senate Bill No. 581 “The Solar Rooftop Adoption Act of 2019” which seeks to help solar rooftop related industries grow by standardizing permitting process, lessening the energy restriction and developing a loan program to help the companies expand. In addition, all government agencies will be mandated to install solar energy systems in their respective offices.
Aside from supporting renewable energy start-ups, modernizing the transportation sector would also help in generating a more sustainable economy. With that in mind, Senate Bill No. 1382 “The Electric Vehicles and Charging Stations Act” was authored by Sen. Grace Poe, Sen. Win Gatchalian, who chairs the senate committee on energy, and other senators. About 79.3% of the country’s fuel consumption is generated by road transportation. The goal is to make our transport sector more energy efficient and through this Senate Bill, we may be able to “effectively make our economy more sustainable and self-reliant.”
With a net loss of 72.8 Billion Pesos, one of the hardest hit industries by the COVID-19 Pandemic is the transport sector, and at the very heart of it– our Jeepney drivers. While modernizing our transport sector through e-vehicles lessens our dependence on energy importation, for Llamanzares, to mandate the removal without considering the economic burden it would place on the shoulders of our Jeepney drivers would be morally irresponsible. Because of this, Senator Poe called for a more sensitive approach towards any kind of modernization program.
With Senate Bill 867 “An Act Providing for a Just and Humane Public Utility Vehicle Modernization Program,” Senator Poe pushes for financial assistance to help Jeepney drivers seek new opportunities and help them build a new life. They will also be given an opportunity to take out a loan with an amortization not exceeding 4% per annum, payable over the course of 15 years.
Third Pillar: Disaster Resilience
“Imagine being a 57-year-old farmer, and watching everything you’ve spent your life building be wiped away by a single typhoon. To rebuild what you’ve lost, you’d fall in debt and struggle to make ends meet. This is why insurance and a department specifically for disaster resilience is so important,” said Llamanzares.
The Philippines is the second most climate vulnerable country in the world; fourth globally in terms of deaths relating to extreme weather events. In 2013, Typhoone Yolanda caused 1.3 Billion pesos in losses in the fishing sector in Region 8 alone while Typhoon Ompong caused roughly 265 Million pesos in losses in livestock. The 2017 Global Climate Risk Index pegged the economic losses of the Philippines due to extreme climate related events at roughly 24.5 Billion pesos.
Imagine spending Billions or even Trillions on building the agriculture backbone of the Philippine economy and creating a more sustainable energy sector– without contingency plans, we stand to lose out what we’ve gained.
This is why Senator Poe filed Senate Bill No. 866 which provides insurance for farmers and fisherfolk who work in the most climate vulnerable industries in the country.
Aside from that, Senate Bill 124 was authored by Senator Poe in hopes of establishing a disaster risk and reduction management system. Under this bill, the Department of Disaster Resilience and Emergency Assistance and Management would be formed. Under this bill, 3% of all government revenue will be set aside so that the agency can provide funding and machinery to prepare and deal with any disaster as it recognizes that climate vulnerability is in fact, a primary concern of the government.
Of the three pillars, the third is most crucial for building a sustainable economy, said Brian. “It is our way of showing foreign investors that buying into the future of the Philippines comes with a warranty.” He added that investing on tools that will help the country prepare for the worst “is not only pragmatic. It is of utmost importance.”
As a new generation of young and promising entrepreneurs and political figures are coming to the forefront, Brian reminds them to keep these three pillars in mind.
The image projection of clouds embodies Brian’s Master’s degree in Climate Change and Society from Columbia University. (Photograph of clouds from Eberhard Grossgasteiger | Photo by Jan Mayo of Lifestyle Asia
“This Pandemic will not last forever, but when this ends, we will have a chance to rebuild the economy… I want our country to be a leader in agriculture, in renewable energy and in disaster management so that instead of importing, we can begin exporting and take our place as leaders in the global economy once more.”
Featured Photo By Jan Mayo of Lifestyle Asia