To address environmental vulnerabilities, use a risk-management approach in empowering communities, experts said.
The challenge to be stewards of the environment is a responsibility shared by all sectors of society, and this includes adopting a risk-management approach to dealing with disasters and incorporating sustainability measures in corporations’ business models.
Environment and sustainability experts agreed on this during a panel discussion on Day 1 of the Pilipinas Conference, organized by The Stratbase ADR Institute on November 21-22.
“The risks we face are complex, dynamic, and systemic. These compound and cascade across sectors and skills,” said Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Ma. Antonia Yulo-Loyzaga in her keynote address during the conference.
Even as she warned that the planet was way off its emission cutting targets that would limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, every effort would still count as moving forward.
“For the welfare of our people, it is incumbent upon us to prevent and mitigate factors that contribute to the people’s vulnerability to the impact of climate change,” Loyzaga said.
She advocated an integrated risk governance approach, which emphasizes evidence-informed prevention and disaster risk recovery planning over emergency response, not just by the whole of government but by the whole of society.
“Lessons from past disasters need to be made part of our survival DNA,” she said.
Stratbase ADR Institute president Prof. Victor Manhit emphasized on the close relationship between governance and economic development, national security, and the demands of addressing the climate crisis that seeps into every sphere and facet of our nation’s life, and the ultimate goal of ending intergenerational inequality through inclusive and sustained growth.
Philippine Disaster Resilience Foundation president Rene Meily recounted his organization’s efforts in disaster recovery and said that while their members, mostly large companies, compete with each other commercially, they work together in times of disaster.
“The one thing we learned is that we are all connected,” he said. “So, the only way we are going to beat these different issues is if we work together—government, civil society, the private sector, and the public at large.”
Chamber of Mines of the Philippines vice-chairman Gerard Brimo said that Philippine laws and regulations on the environment are complete and provide the basic framework, but they do not tell companies how to take care of the community and the environment.
“This is where sustainable mining comes in,” he said. “It is what we call going beyond compliance,” he said.
Meralco’s chief sustainability officer Raymond Ravelo talked about his company’s Powering the Good Life campaign which reflects their sustainability agenda and allows it to engage its employees more broadly.
“Our focus continues to be on the UN Sustainable Development Goal 7, or the drive to deliver affordable and clean energy,” he said.
In the ensuing discussion, Meily and Ravelo pointed out the need for more fiscal incentives to companies undertaking environmental projects. Brimo said there was a need to see stability in policies to attract large, responsible mining firms.
“All these validate the findings of a Stratbase-commissioned Pulse Asia survey last September that 19% of Filipinos believe that private investors can help the government manage natural resources and take care of the environment,” said Stratbase ADR Institute President Victor Andres Manhit, who welcomed the conference participants and highlighted the need for all sectors of society to work together for the common good.
The chairman of Livable Cities Philippines, Guillermo Luz, said building competitiveness starts in cities – not just big ones like Manila, Cebu, or Davao – because local government units are the building blocks for national resilience and development.
To do this, one has to cast the net wider and further to secondary and tertiary cities through diversification of investment and job opportunities, Luz said.
“The key is preparedness, prevention, mitigation,” he said. “The storm or earthquake could be very strong, but you could survive easily. Or it could be very weak and you could be in a complete disaster if you are not prepared.”
Dr. Carlos Primo David, convenor of Philippine Business for Environmental Stewardship (PBEST) differentiated companies’ environmental, social and governance (ESG) efforts from corporate social responsibility (CSR) which is characterized by volunteerism and charity, even as both result in the common good.
“ESG, on the other hand, directly or indirectly relates to the financial viability of the company itself,” he said.
He said that the government can learn a few things from the private sector in allocating resources for ESG – efficiency, scale, and leverage.