Australian Embassy
The Philippines

SP131018 - Laguna Lake Region Ecological Footprint Report Launch

Message by Ambassador Bill Tweddell
Laguna Lake Region Ecological Footprint Report Launch
18 October 2013, 1:30 pm
Discovery Suites, Ortigas Center, Pasig City

 Secretary Nereus Acosta
 Commissioner Naderev Saño
 Ms Pati Poblete, Global Footprint Network
 Mr Luc Le Cabellac, Country Director of AFD
 Atty Angela Ibay, WWF Philippines
 Other representatives of the Philippines Government and the Global Footprint Network
 Ladies and Gentlemen

Thank you for inviting me here today. I am very happy to be a part of the official launch of the “Restoring the Balance in Laguna Lake Region: 2013 Ecological Footprint Report”.

Firstly, however, may I take a moment to extend on behalf of the Australian Government and people, our heartfelt sympathies for the loss of lives and destruction caused by this week’s devastating earthquake in Bohol and Cebu. This tragic event, occurring in the same week as the International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction, is a timely reminder of the importance of disaster preparedness and resiliency.

Today I am going to discuss three things:
• Australia’s investment on Disaster and Climate Risk Management in the Philippines;
• our support to promoting ecological balance in the Laguna Lake and Metro Manila region; and
• the role of the Philippine Government in taking this agenda forward.

Australia has been a long-standing partner of the Philippines in enhancing disaster and climate risk management and promoting inclusive growth.

Understanding the risks caused by the demands on the Laguna Lake region’s natural resources, and the potential impact on lives and livelihoods of the most vulnerable if left unchecked, is of upmost importance.

So, Australia welcomes collaboration between the Global Footprint Network, the Climate Change Commission, the Laguna Lake Development Authority and the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority, to advance the Philippines’ sustainable development agenda. We are proud to support such a worthwhile endeavour.

In 2012, Australia signed a Statement of Commitment for the period 2012–2017 with the Government of the Philippines. Our commitment is to the poor and vulnerable. Our goal is to ensure that they are able to take advantage of the benefits arising from a more prosperous, stable and resilient Philippines.

An important part of achieving our goal is to build disaster and climate resilient communities and economy. Helping the Philippines to address and alleviate negative environmental impacts remains one of Australia’s core priorities.

Therefore, since 2006, Australia has committed almost two billion pesos (AUD48.15 million) to support disaster risk reduction and climate resilience activities in the Philippines.

The Philippine Government at both national and local level has a role to play in providing strategic leadership in implementing effective climate resilience policies and programs and in securing its assets and investments.

We are strongly encouraged by the strategic leadership being demonstrated by national agencies in this field, including through the work of the Climate Change Commission. It is clear that the Philippines has a strong institutional platform for managing risks from natural disasters and climate change, while promoting sustainable economic development.

Australia wants to support this platform to put effective policies and frameworks into place at the local level. For this reason we are investing with the Philippines for the integration of environmental resilience, resource accounting and disaster risk management into longer-term sub-national land use and investment planning.

Just yesterday, we launched, with the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, the hazard and risk information for Greater Metro Manila. This information guides the development and investment decisions, and disaster preparedness measures, of metropolitan governments and communities.
Australia is also supporting the Climate Change Commission, National Economic and Development Authority and the Housing and Land Use Regulatory Board in updating development and land use planning guidelines to integrate disaster and climate considerations.

As natural disasters pose real risks to push people back into poverty, these investments will support the Philippines to build a secure and safe environment for its people, including the poor living in Metropolitan Manila. This is especially important for those most vulnerable, whose livelihoods are often dependent on natural resources.

Australia is pleased to support the Global Footprint Network as they work globally to provide government leaders at all levels with the tools they need to better track and manage their countries’ valuable natural resources. Global Footprint Network’s wide-ranging expertise has seen them establish Ecological Footprints in over 230 countries and regions to date.

The 2013 Ecological Footprint Report for Laguna Lake is an important step in understanding the ecological state of one of the Philippines’ most important regions. The Laguna Lake region is a particular priority. Its watershed encompasses 66 LGUs and five provinces, including Metropolitan Manila. The region is home to 14.5 million people.

The Laguna Lake basin forms the backbone of the country’s economic growth. As the 2013 Report highlights, the region contributes over 60% of the Philippines’ gross domestic product. However, in the last 30 years, Laguna Lake has faced increased pressure through rapid deforestation, urbanisation and overfishing.

Deforestation and declining fish stocks are primary environmental challenges facing the Philippines as a whole. Many Filipinos depend on natural resources for their livelihoods. As resource competition increases, the most vulnerable populations will be impacted the most. And without access to basic needs and livelihoods, sustainable development cannot be achieved. This affects the entire country.

The Report underpins the Philippine Government’s vision for sustainable development in the Laguna Lake region and Metro Manila. Not only does it assess the challenges of resource demands, but it also outlines opportunities. It establishes a framework through which local government units can evaluate planned policies and investments, and promote environmental management, balanced growth and resilience to their constituents.

Leaders who understand their country’s resource needs, limits and dependencies, known as ‘Ecological Footprints’, will be better positioned to support the success of their economies and well-being of their people.

Australia again commends the Climate Change Commission, Laguna Lake Development Authority and Metropolitan Manila Development Authority on your successful collaboration with Global Footprint Network on this important issue. The Philippines has become the first South-East Asian country to adopt the Ecological Footprint. This puts your agencies at the forefront of such leadership.

We are proud to support further activities to bring the knowledge and learning gained from this collaboration to the fore. Australia is also supporting the Global Footprint Network to provide expert training for national and local government officials, on integrating the Report’s findings in policy development and decision-making processes.

We hope to see the Government continue to play a role in
• building the capacity of Filipino communities and industry sectors to effectively track and manage resource use and limitations;
• supporting research and innovation on resource accounting and ecological footprints;
• promoting environmentally sound practices; and
• integrating and institutionalising the use of the ecological footprint in planning, investment programming and budgeting.

We hope this report will be the first step in transforming the all-important Laguna Lake resource as a focal centre of disaster and climate resilience and sustainable development for the region and the country as a whole.

Thank you for this opportunity to show Australia’s support to such a worthwhile endeavour. I wish you a success in taking forward the sustainable development agenda. Good afternoon.