Towards a Resource-Efficient, Green Development

Towards a Resource-Efficient, Green Development

by Heherson T. Alvarez
Climate Change Commission, Republic of the Philippines

Speech delivered before the 13th Delhi Sustainable Development Summit (DSDS)
Taj Palace Hotel, New Delhi, India, 1 February 2013 


During the recent World Economic Forum in Davos, our President Benigno Aquino III declared three priority areas of investment in the Philippines --  tourism, agriculture, and infrastructure. These are basic areas which have extraordinary potential with our quest for a green economy.

An archipelago of 7,100 islands with a population of over 95 million, we were declared the third nation most vulnerable to climate change.  Its dispersed islands is a unique challenge to climate change survival.

Our public and private sectors are engaged in a wide variety of climate change mitigation and adaptation programs. I would like to stress three significant projects, among others, that may show a direction for green growth and sustainable development.

    •  First  is the development of the country’s major river basins;

    •  Second, is building a stronger resilience in our agricultural sector; and,

    •  Third, is an effort to drastically reduce black carbon from diesel engines in our urban areas with the enhancement of renewable energy capacity.


Our country has 412 river basins.  River basins and watersheds constitute 70 percent of our land mass. As the lifeblood and drivers of the Philippine economy, the rivers and their basins must be the new focus of the country’s program for sustainable development and   climate change adaptation and mitigation.

The Philippines is pursuing this through a multi-faceted strategy, the “Integrated and Ecosystem-based River Basin Management Project.”  Initially, the project will cover the 18 largest river basins of the country, focusing on the Cagayan River, the country’s largest and longest river.  The River Basin and its surrounding mountains, forests, wetlands, and the diversity of flora and fauna are golden opportunities for eco-tourism.

Green jobs and green growth will be generated   in a wide variety of subsidiary projects along the river, wetlands and adjacent marine sectors - mini hydropower plants, small catchment basins for flood control, water retention, and offshore tidal energy.  

A notable program is the National Greening. It targets 1.5 billion trees to be planted in 1.5 million hectares of degraded or denuded areas from 2011-2016.

As we speak, teams of Filipino engineers, technicians, scientists and community leaders are addressing vital inter-related concerns – watershed conservation, flood mitigation, clean water source, agricultural and fishery production, poverty alleviation, and power generation, an all-inclusive work generation.

National and local government agencies are currently organizing and educating communities and individuals to manage and protect water and related resources.


River basin development is closely tied to “climate smart” agriculture. Climate-smart agriculture fulfills sustainable development goals, reducing poverty, food insecurity and malnutrition.

At almost 32 percent, agriculture is the largest component of the Philippine GDP. Locked for decades into chemical production system, we have become a rice importing nation, although rice is our main staple,.  It is a vast opportunity for organic fertilizer development.  

River basin development will multiply the number of national and communal irrigation systems and small water impounding systems.  Irrigation can make a hectare of land produce three rice crops in a year.   President Aquino in Davos expressed optimism that the Philippines will soon be a net rice exporter.  By building a green resiliency in our farming methods, climate-smart agriculture will soon make the Philippines sufficient in major staples by the end of 2013.

We are on the way there. Last year, the  sustained growth and development of the country’s crop industry grew by 4.1 percent. The crop subsector posted  more than one-half (51.5%) to total agriculture production, which increased by 2.92% in 2012, despite the chain of devastating  typhoons.

Climate-smart agriculture is giving  farmers better management of natural resources. Agro technicians   are   providing pro-active research in crop farming systems. In addition, our  Department of Agriculture  has mobilized battalions of  “food soldiers” to achieve sufficiency in rice and major staples, under  a  medium-term Food Staples Sufficiency Program (FSSP).


Metro Manila’s large fleet of diesel-driven jeepneys, buses and trucks are responsible for 70% of total black carbon emission - 500,000 public utility vehicles, mostly jeepneys, produce 22,000 metric tons of diesel soot emissions a year.

The Philippine Environment Monitor estimates that air pollution costs the Philippine economy $1.5 billion annually.  The World Bank estimates that 5,000 annual premature deaths due to air pollution make-up 12% of all deaths in Metro Manila.

A project to address black soot emissions will be inaugurated this year as a public-private partnership.  Black carbon has a climate change effect several thousand times that of carbon dioxide.  The goal is to modify some 500,000 Metro Manila public utility vehicle engines over a 5-year period.  Through this program, the Philippines may be able to claim one of the largest, if not the largest, per capita reductions of climate change emissions.

The pursuit of the black carbon program, and the enhancement of an alternative energy system are mitigation programs that will create technical, inclusive, jobs.  Ultimately the Philippines will have to formulate a policy of fossil-fuel policy that will make alternative energy systems competitive and bring us towards a low-carbon development alongside the safe global targets defined by the UN IPCC.


Optimizing green economic benefits, increasing people’s capacity to control their lives while reducing environmental risks and enhancing natural capital – this is the blueprint   to bridge the shift to a green economy in the Philippines.  We are beginning to pursue “the future that we want” for ourselves and for humankind.