Tourism and Climate Change Adaptation

Mayor Noel Rosal. I’ve known you as a young vice mayor, before your wife… and now you are working for her. And the mayor of course was here a while ago. She has to leave for another conference. Undersecretary Corpus, I think I recognize several regional directors, Nini who spoke and welcomed us and of course Jilbert who has been an old friend who is the voice of Secretary Paje here, and another one from my region, Blessie. We have a lady mayor here from one of the towns of the distant province of Isabela, her name is Panganiban. Although she’s not from the Bicol area there’s a town and place called Panganiban. Lady mayor of Angadanan.

In any case, I’m told I’m supposed to keynote this conference.

But some of those who have spoken ahead of me have done a better job of keynoting, of pinpointing precisely what has to be understood and to be grasped. Our lady mayor had pointed out that to be able to create a disaster-resilient community, a community that has the vision and creativity to bond together and protect itself from the onslaughts of natural disasters, you must be in your system from bottoms up. That’s what our law on risk reduction is doing, and that’s what many of the local executives are pursuing, and we’re building that up.

But why are we so preoccupied with climate change adaptation? Bakit ba nagiging problema natin itong climate change adaptation or the protection of our communities from these dangerous onslaughts of climate change? Ano bang nangyayari sa ating panahon kaya kailangan nating magkaroon ng disaster management from the barangay and up, and now we are telling the Department of Tourism to stand up and be counted and stand up to protect the community like the local government units?

Because the Department of Tourism is one of the biggest potential for contributing into our development program. Ang growth program ay 5-6%, better than the Department of Environment which I used to head, or better than mining, perhaps even better than agriculture; and if you threaten this growth area which is most vulnerable to the onslaught of climate change, you bring about poverty.

This is one of our areas of growth that can redress capital formation, poverty alleviation. Yung medium term development goal which is going to end on 2015 must correspond to the program targeted by Secretary Corpus. But this great program of tourism is threatened by climate change. What is this grave danger that threatens our community?

According to the United Nations, we are the third most vulnerable to climate change. Anguna, Tonga, Vanuatu, and the Philippines.Which means that if we are not able to put up the resiliency, the discipline, the organization, the vision of people to be able protect themselves and the community, and that unity most of all. We are going to be a ruined and impoverished community because of climate change.

Well Noel told you that I called for the first conference here in Asia on climate change, which we did. At that time in 1994 we said, at the rate, we’re accumulating CO2 in the atmosphere, 200 years down the line, we would see the destruction of our community.

But 16 years after the conference, the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change which is the international body that has focused its understanding of this growing danger towards civilization came out with the finding. 200 years, napakahaba nyan. 50 years lang pala. Why?

May I show you the cause and effect relationship of climate change and the need for organized adaptation, the threat to the human community, and perhaps to the existence of human civilization.

Fifty years, sabi ng IPCC, if we do not cut the massive concentration or accumulation of CO2 in the atmosphere which is now 200 gigatonnes or 200 billion metric tons, then we will see the gigantic onslaughts and destruction coming from ocean surge, coming from super typhoons, from droughts, super floods.  Nangyayari na yan. The prediction earlier on is that we were going to have 20 of these emerging storms in the Philippines. Now if you’ll look at the UN study, they predict that we’re going to have 30.

That’s why we are the third most vulnerable country in the world because of our long coastal area, where about 70% of the best of our communities, like Legazpi are located. We have about 36,000 km of coastal zone, and these are very vulnerable to ocean surge. Our narrow bodies of land are bifurcated by river systems. We’re very vulnerable to flooding. Northern Luzon, for instance, has the biggest and the longest river in the whole country, the Cagayan Valley River system, which is a boon and a blessing, but is also a threat, because that’s where you have the super floods and the super droughts.

Bakit nanganganib, dahil sa kapal ng CO2, hindi lamang tayo kundi ang buong daigdig? Because CO2 traps the warmth of the sun. You have two bands - the white band escapes into the atmosphere but the red band or the short band is trapped by this massive accumulation of CO2 which causes the warming of the earth.

And the IPCC points out, which was criticized but when they won a Nobel prize this is now the mainstream of scientific thinking, that the earth is 1.4 degrees warm, and if it reaches 2 degrees air warming, perhaps there’s nothing left in human ingenuity that can be done. Lahat ng adaptation na ginagawa natin, kulang na. The warming process will be so disastrous it will lead to the acidification of the ocean and destruction of biodiversity.

That’s why the whole world is organized. In November, all 100 nations of the world will meet in Qatar, and they will look at how humanity could reduce this warming impact of CO2, will reduce CO2, would form the bulk of fund of 100 billion so that countries developing like us will have access to resources to technology and assistance and capacity-building to be able to deliver the adaptation measures that we need for the nation and the mitigation measure that we must contribute to the rest of the world.

We are living in dangerous times, but we are living in challenging times. Your presence today shows that our community is beginning to understand this global phenomenon and the threat to the smaller communities that we must protect. The tourism trade, the recreation that it brings to our people, and the livelihood it creates for the nation, perhaps could be not only vital but a crucial indicator on how we are able to setup these protection adaptation measures.

Let us hope that in the conference in Qatar in November, the world community will come to its senses, and it will be able to come up with the wisdom on how to be able to reduce CO2 in the atmosphere. In the past conferences which have been attended by your delegates, many of the brilliant voices, the leaders are at a loss in finding a common solution.  They talk like the Tower of Babel. Ikaw, China magputol ka. Sabi ng China bakit ako magpuputol e we’re only beginning to develop. You, the developed and industrial who have deposited these CO2 should cut first. But we’re not going to have a meaningful program unless the 1.2 billion Chinese start cutting carbon.

Finally, the Kyoto Protocol which is a key component in this process has given a new lease on life.  Pag-uusapan na naman kung magkano at ilan ang puputulin ng bawat bansa upang yung CO2, which threatens all of us, methane, nitrous oxide, black carbon, para yang greenhouse gases na yan ay mabawasan upang tayo naman, itong adaptation measure in protecting our community will not carry the gigantic brunt of survival.

But I must congratulate you, I must congratulate the Department of Tourism, I must congratulate the local organization for climate change is facing up to this danger that threatens this civilization. For the first time, we see mankind trying to respond to a problem.

I hope mankind finds that solution.  But we must find that solution soon, and fast enough, or the future generations will carry the destructive brunt of global warming and climate change. We must strengthen our adaptive capacity to protect our communities and our people from ruin and from certain death. We must also find the wisdom in the rest of mankind to cut CO2, to go down to a low carbon economy, and ultimately spare us from the consequences of these deadly, deathly pollutions of the earth.

Maraming salamat po.

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Speech delivered by
Hon. HEHERSON T. ALVAREZ
during the 1st Philippine Tourism Conference on Climate Change Adaptation
Oriental Hotel Legaspi City, Albay, 23 August 2012