Keynote Speech

Arsenio M. Balisacan, PhD
National Economic and Development Authority

Launch of the World Bank Group’s
Philippine Country Climate and Development Report

Quezon Room, Seda Vertis North, Quezon City
25 October 2022 | 9:15 A.M.

DENR Secretary Maria Antonia Yulo Loyzaga,

World Bank Country Director Ndiamé Diop,

Vice Chairperson and Executive Director of the Philippines’ Climate Change Commission Robert Borje,

Distinguished officials of the World Bank and our development partners, colleagues in government, friends in civil society and the private sector,

Ladies and gentlemen,

Good morning.

I want to thank the World Bank for inviting me to become a part of and a witness to the launch of the Philippine Country Climate and Development Report. Today is a momentous occasion as it marks how the world’s present leaders are committing and reacting to the climate change initiative more earnestly. Perhaps no other issue is more important – none more existential and critical to humanity’s future (at least, at this point in history) – than climate change. And so, I extend my sincerest congratulations and gratitude to the World Bank Group and all the other contributors and stakeholders. They dedicated their time and effort to put this report together. I am sure that many, including myself, are looking forward to seeing it presented.

As the Socioeconomic Planning Secretary, I can honestly say that now more than ever, the integration of climate action into our development plans is of absolute necessity. Compared to other parts of the world, the Philippines is particularly subject to adverse weather conditions. On average, we encounter eight to nine tropical cyclones per year. We suffer through excessive rainfall that endangers us to flash floods and landslides and causes damage to our sources of food, shelter, and livelihoods. With greater uncertainties being introduced to us by climate change, we can also expect more droughts and, consequently, more future water and food crises to affect the country. The Philippines also has a running ecological deficit – wherein our ecological footprint (or the impact created by our population on our environment) goes beyond our area’s natural capacity. If we do not get our acts right soon, more communities will be routinely displaced, more economic activities disrupted, and more agricultural systems devastated due to these extreme, climate change-induced weather conditions.

Previously, the long-standing view had been the misperception that policymakers must choose between two seemingly opposing objectives: environmental preservation and economic growth. It would appear as if a choice always had to be made between the two. With the rapid advances in science and technology in recent years, however, it has not only been possible but imperative to choose both. The fast and sustained growth of economies, especially emerging markets, can and must increasingly be supported by clean technologies if we genuinely want to build the foundation for the society we wish to live in.

The World Bank’s new Climate Change Action Plan, which includes the Country Climate and Development Report, has arrived at a very good time. This guiding framework provides countries with further insight into the best practices and most impactful actions each can undertake to integrate the climate agenda into their particular development goals. Globally, countries are concerting to prioritize the recovery and conservation of their natural capital for the sake and benefit of their people. Especially in the Philippines, a country globally recognized as one of the most vulnerable to climate change, extremely volatile weather conditions can seriously impact and threaten the lives of thousands of Filipinos. For this reason, initiatives like that of the CCDR ring much urgency here.

The National Economic and Development Authority has spearheaded actions and responses to climate change. Of our most recent contributions, we, together with the Asian Development Bank and various agencies, have led the formulation of the Philippine Action Plan for Sustainable Consumption and Production (PAP4SCP). This plan lays out the actions needed to enable the country to shift towards climate-smart and sustainable practices over the short, medium, and long terms. Toward contributing to climate change mitigation goals, the plan intends to expedite the scaling up of renewable energy systems, adopt resource-efficient green technologies, implement sustainable, multi-modal transport, and even institutionalize Natural Capital Accounting.

The initiative on Natural Capital Accounting shall allow policymakers to measure the country’s wealth by more than just its economic output or GDP. When it comes to sustaining growth, it is an instrument that is just as crucial as measuring GDP in our statistical system, as it promotes the sustainable use of our natural resources by placing a value on something not previously measured.

Our country’s long-term vision, the AmBisyon Natin 2040, states that all Filipinos will enjoy a firmly rooted, comfortable, and secure life by 2040. To achieve this goal, we need to address the issues concerned with the environmental dimension of development. The time is ripe for rethinking the trade-offs of our development mindset, that our economic gains need not arise from ecological loss and degradation, and that the governance of our environmental systems and commons be science-based. Sustained and committed action on climate change remains at the top of the national agenda to achieve inclusive growth, development, and sustainability for the future.

Thus, we at the NEDA have high hopes that the programs and priorities outlined in the Philippine CCDR will accordingly inform policies and influence ongoing institutional reforms in the country. As I have said, this report could not have come more opportune, especially as the nation has set out to track a greener and more prosperous path for the medium term. The upcoming Philippine Development Plan 2023-2028, the country’s development blueprint for the medium term, will lay out the actionable steps we can take and the projects and programs we ought to prioritize in pursuing a greener economy and more sustainable, affordable, and livable residential areas by 2028. Examples of such priority actions will include mechanisms involving carbon pricing and incentivizing local government units to focus on more climate-friendly projects (such as electric vehicles, sustainable tourism, biodiversity protection, and energy efficiency).

As we navigate this challenging recovery, I hope for the furtherance of a governance model that can achieve a healthy balance between our desired objectives as a society. It will require everyone’s commitment – from government agencies to private sector partners and the ordinary citizen, to be engaged and determined to steer our systems toward a greener and more sustainable direction. We must bear these considerations in mind, as no less than the welfare of future generations of Filipinos is on the line.

On that note, I would like to congratulate the team once again for this report! I look forward to the discussions that will follow.

Thank you, and good day to all.