Press Release
August 7, 2007

Privilege speech of Sen. Juan Miguel F. Zubiri

I rise on an issue that envelopes the earth, an issue that occupied the attention of generations of scientists but is just now arising in public consciousness.

Mr. President, in the last 30 years, world's average temperature has risen to about .6 degree Celsius. Mercury is rising and Mother Earth is feverish. The number one culprit is greenhouse gas emissions from the burning of fossils fuels to feed our industries and run our motor vehicles.

A lot of scientific studies have found out that this rise in world's temperature is causing dramatic climate change. Rise in world's sea level, abnormal weather patterns, strong typhoons, tornadoes, el niño and la niña phenomena, heavy rains which cause floodings in many parts of the world and loss of biodiversity are just some of the effects of climate change.

Rapid global warming and climate change are issues that affect our country being an archipelago in the biggest ocean of our earth - an ocean considered as the main driver of the world's climate systems.

We have experienced the early warning signs talked about by Filipino and foreign scientists.

The early warning signs are: heat waves and period of unusually warm weather; ocean warming, sea-level rise and coastal flooding; glaciers melting; and Arctic and Antarctic warming

The harbingers are: spreading disease; early spring arrival; plant and animal range shifts and population changes; corral reef bleaching; downpours, heavy snowfalls and heavy flooding; droughts and fires.

Early warning signs are measurable events but are not so easily perceived as signs while harbingers manifest the chain of events over time and say definitively that what is being warned has come about.

They are vital signs and symptoms - of a sick earth - that scientists record and for which governments spend billions of dollars to diagnose, and of late, to heal.

Climate change and its negative impacts are noticed first by the most vulnerable who work the land but who often have the least control over resources to avert oncoming disasters.

For many, global warming and climate change were discussed in the comfort of schools or from armchairs watching the news. Long ago, anyone of us could have said "what of an ice cap melting that's so far away". Besides, the earth underwent cataclysmic climatic changes and it has bounced back and managed to host new species. When drastic climate change wiped out the dinosaurs, mammals and man flourished.

The debate rages on. One camp says global warming fits a normal pattern of the earth's climate since it was born and that we are merely in one of those cycles of climatic changes. The other camp says the warming is coming in convulsions and man holds most of the blame, especially since the Industrial Revolution.

What is it really? Climate change "refers to the variation in the earth's global climate or in regional climates over time. It describes changes in the variability or average state of the atmosphere over time scales ranging from decades to millions of years. These changes can be caused by processes internal to the Earth, external forces such as, variations in sunlight intensity or, more recently, human activities."

The climatic changes we are experiencing are factual, said NASA study of global temperature. They analyzed data gathered "(1) over land, (2) satellite measurements of sea surface temperature since 1982, and (3) a ship-based analysis for earlier years."

We have been forewarned.

Climate scientist at Goddard Institute for Space Studies also corrected previously accepted conclusions that most global warming occurred before 1940. It said: "Global warming is now 0.6C in the past three decades and 0.8C in the past century. It is no longer correct to say that 'most global warming occurred before 1940'. More specifically, there was slow global warming, with large fluctuations, over the century up to 1975 and subsequent rapid warming of almost 0.2C per decade.

Men's climate-altering activities.

Let me return to the melting polar ice caps. It is ordinarily believed that melted ice will cool ocean water and just raise sea levels. It would. But a further life-threatening result of melting polar ice caps is that the extremely cold water sinks and pushes warmer air on the sea surface upwards. This in combination with altered ocean currents greatly produce extreme weather situations like stronger cyclones and heavy precipitation in altered patterns of type, frequency, density and coverage.

Tornados that hit Nueva Ecija, Pampanga, Bulacan and the hale in Baguio are among them. The devastation of supertyphoons that hardly hit Bicol demolished houses, destroyed crops and infrastructure, are similarly effects of global warming. The excessive downpour which produced landslides in Leyte and buried people and properties is another.

Just last month, heavy and persistent rainfall caused similar landslides in Compostela Valley and Bukidnon. On the Luzon mainland, Albay cries out for water.

Global warming causes a redistribution of rainfall. Lots of it in one area and lacking in another.

We can only surmise what other negative effects of global warming in our country have not reached us or remains unreported.

It is time to accept that our activities has interfered with the climate systems and are bringing on these disasters, then we can identify areas of activity that needs correction.

How we produce and use power, farm, manufacture goods, consume our goods - and consume wastefully -had caused the thickening of the layer of Green House Gases in the atmosphere, of which carbon dioxide is the most prevalent.

Our own climate scientists have determined that our country's Green House Gases emissions come from activities associated with energy (accounting for 49 per cent of our GHG emissions, for power and fuel), agriculture (at 33 %), industry (at 11 %) and waste (at 7 %).

The Green House Gases (Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), perfluorocarbons (PFCs), sulphur hexafluoride (SF6), carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), and nitrous oxide (N20) trap infrared waves that should have been re-radiated back into space. Greenhouse Gases reabsorb these infrared waves, re-emit these downward thereby causing lower temperatures to warm.

Extreme weather events and the extended dry spell.

It's easy to dismiss literary allusions to global warming and climate change. The images of a sick old man representing the earth and of nature being raped became tired old clichs. They are resurrected because we are now suffering the effects, and the future of our children is greatly at risk. We have not been good stewards, thus our sufferings.

More than that, at greater risk are those who work the soil like farmers in the vegetable bowl in the Cordilleras to the farmers in rice bowl of central Luzon. Those who harvest resources from lakes, rivers and seas. Those who eke out a living as marginal fishers from the coastal areas, or even operators of the most luxurious beach resorts. Livestock growers in the piggeries lately struck by cholera.

It is ironic that we, who control the resources to combat global warming are one of the last to know. And more ironic, is that global warming impacts most negatively to people who are already poor. Long before the National Disaster Coordinating Council came out with its report, farmers in La Union, Ilocos Norte, Ilocos Sur, Abra, Nueva Viscaya, Apayao, Benguet, Mt. Province and Kalinga have experienced decreasing harvests and inability to plant new crops.

But months before, in May this year, the Cebu City Disaster Coordinating Council reported that the dry spell affected the livelihood of about 30 percent of the city's mountain residents and damaged P1.1 million worth of agricultural crops were damaged.

The Ilocos region expects 808,000 metric tons of rice will be destroyed if the dry spell persists to the end of August.

The NDCC report assessed damage at P52 million worth of rice and corn in Quirino province and P267 million pesos worth in Isabela. Some 42,000 hectares of fishponds in Isabela also "dried up." At risk too are aquaculture in Bulacan, Cavite, Pangasinan, Iloilo, Negros, Bohol, Cebu, Zamboanga, Surigao, South Cotabato, Davao and Sulu. Communities that depend on ground water are likewise under the brunt of the long dry spell. In Bulacan, that would be 20 towns and San Jose del Monte City. Likewise, other towns in Bulacan supplied by Angat Dam suffer with the dam's water level falling to 171.79 meters or more than eight meters below the critical level. Vegetable and rice farms are also affected at 40 hectares and 28,000 hectares, respectively.

Water for irrigation have been cut in half from 25 cu m/sec to 12.5 cu m/sec. This has negative impact on18,178 hectares of farmlands in Bulacan and Pampanga affecting thousands of farmers.

Rapid global warming cause other changes in addition to sea level rise, intensity of extreme weather events and changes in the amount and pattern of precipitation. Other effects include changes in agricultural yields, species extinctions and increases in the ranges of disease vectors.

Doctors undertook a study that concentrated on seven (7) landfalling tropical cyclones and hospital admission of eight diseases (gastroenteritis, dengue fever, hepatitis, influenza, measles, typhoid fever, bronchopneumonia, and tetanus) for the period 1984 to 1988. They found that admissions on mosquito-borne diseases and water-borne diseases increased.

Another reason for worry is that because of the lack of rainfall "the energy sector has increased the use of coal and oil to compensate for the limited load from hydroelectric plants. National Power Corp. said that 18.95 percent on the average of the generation mix from 2001 to 2006 came from the hydro plants, peaking last year at 23 percent. The generation mix is derived from coal, geothermal, hydro, natural gas and oil-based plants. With the decrease in the capacity of hydroelectric plants to produce power, the slack is now being taken up by coal, oil, natural gas and geothermal energy-fed power plants."

Hydroelectric plants of San Roque, Binga and Magat in northern Luzon and Angat and Pantabangan in central Luzon had low water levels."

Because our alternative energy resources are not yet fully tapped, this development in the energy sector alone could set us back with so many tons of carbon dioxide emissions, one of the target GHG of international treaties on climate change, the latest of which is the Kyoto Protocol.

On October 22, 2003, the Philippine Senate ratified the only international treaty to combat global warming, the Kyoto Protocol. The Kyoto Protocol legally binds 141 State Parties to reduce the global discharge of greenhouse gases (GHGs) and sets legally binding targets and timetables for developed countries to reduce their collective GHG emissions by 5% of their 1990 levels during the period 2008 - 2012. The Kyoto Protocol was adopted at the Third Session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in 1997. Its worldwide entry into force was on 16 February 2005.

This treaty seeks to reverse the rapid upward trend of GHG. It urged governments to improve energy efficiency, reform the energy and transportation sectors, promote renewable forms of energy, phase out inappropriate fiscal measures and market imperfections, limit methane emissions from waste management and energy systems, and protect forests and other carbon "sinks".

It is a positive development that we have acceded and ratified the Kyoto Protocol. Its ultimate objective is to prevent "dangerous anthropogenic [man-made] interference with the climate system".

What had the Philippines done since then? We have done part of our share. We have passed RA 9367 or the Biofuels law last year. With that law, instead of importing our oil, we can now plant 'oil' in our soil. Thus, saving the country of dollar reserves from importing fuel oils while providing our farmers alternative crops to plant and increase their agricultural productivity. The use of biofuel will also reduce CO2 emissions and increase efficiency of our motor vehicles. However, that is not enough.

A complimentary and equally important bill succumbed to the 'virus' that usually afflicts important measures in the legislative mill, which prevents their enactment into laws, that is, the "lack of time". Due to lack of material time in the 13th Congress, the renewable energy bills did not pass this chamber.

And so Mr. President, this early, we are renewing our call, sounding off the alarm and raising the ante, that the Senate acts fast in passing the Renewal Energy Bill, which I understand, several of our colleagues have filed, as well as this representation.

Once passed, this bill will ignite the development and utilization of renewal energy in the country. This will redound to a net-benefit of as much as $1.2 billion through the development of about 2,500 MW of renewable energy-based on-grid power projects. The country will also substantially reduce its dependence and avoid having to import crude oil or fuels typically used by conventional power plants. But more important than the economic benefits of using renewable energy are the environmental benefits. The country will avoid the harmful effects on its citizens and on the environment of greenhouse gas emissions from the conventional power plants. We may even be able to sell carbon emissions credits through trading mechanisms to be set-up under the Kyoto, Protocol.

Mr. President, distinguished colleagues, all the effects of passing this bill point to positive direction. Let us become visionary leaders, let us muster the political courage and have the sense of urgency in passing legislation foe renewable energy.

In 2003, this Senate had demonstrated its political will and vision for our future when it ratified the Kyoto Protocol and passed the Biofuels law. My dear colleagues, Mother Earth is seriously ill, it is our time to rise again and secure our future, our children's future and the future of the generations to come.

Thank you Mr. President.

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