Kalikasan GP3 Conference and Expo 2015

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To the entire Conveners Committee of the Kalikasan GP3 (“Green Purchasing, Green Productivity, Green Philippines”) Expo Conference, led by Sec. Nery Acosta,

To all our leaders, friends and partners in the green building industry, both from the government, business, and private sector groups,

To our green advocates and eco-warriors in attendance,

Ladies and gentlemen,

Isang maganda at luntiang umaga sa inyong lahat!

Maraming salamat po sa pag-imbita sa inyong lingkod dito sa Kalikasan GP3 Expo Conference. It is an honor to represent the Philippine Congress here in the assemblage of leaders and partners in the green industry, and to speak on this very important issue of legislating “green building standards”.

Indeed, this green building is the way forward. Scientists, environmentalists, and policymakers and politicians from around the world have for a long time been convincing the global community to undergo a paradigm shift. Even the Vatican has weighed in on the, as evident from the teachings of recent Popes, culminating in Pope Francis’ recent encyclical “Laudato Si” exactly two months ago.

We are pleased and comforted that the ripples of a worldwide paradigm shift are being felt strongly and causing concrete changes here in the country, led by Filipino champions of the environment in government and in the private sector.

This mutli-sectoral forum is proof that human economy and environment preservation are not necessarily at odds with each other and do not have to cancel each other out. Indeed, there is unassailable sound economic logic even in the cause of the conservation and protection of our common home, the Planet Earth.

You know, I was so disappointed to have been forced to cancel my appearance yesterday at the UP Los Baños’ 1st Energy Conference, organized by its Department of Economics. The “EnerCon”, as the organizers call it, was meant to be an academe-led dialogue and advocacy in the improvement of R&D in Renewable Energy (RE) and the promotion of its acceptability and utilization in the country.

I was supposed to share how PPP—in fact, “PPPP” (meaning Public-Private-People Partnership)—worked magically and effectively in Ilocos Norte, and led to the setting up of our vaunted windmills or wind-sourced energy production infrastructure for the benefit of the local communities.

However, what I would also have wanted to stress there was precisely the fact that business and ecology are not mutually exclusive. They can work hand in hand. Hence, the Department of Economics of our premier State University should also develop and promote this so-called “Ecological Economics”, as a viable branch of economic theory.

And it is precisely here in the Kalikasan GP3 Expo Conference that we can actually witness this theory of “ecological economics” at work and on full display in all its glory. Designed to promote the “green economy” in the country, this trade fair brings together the essential stakeholders in the industry to build and strengthen the necessary linkages and mechanisms complementing this new market, and at the same time affirm and solidify its sound logic and rationale through a healthy exchange of informed opinions.

What makes this trade fair such a complete and comprehensive package is that its discourse covers both the supply-side and the demand-side of the economic equation for green building. It tackles and melds together both the aspects of the “building materials” and the “building practices”.

On the one hand, the “green products” are taken care of by the DTI and the PCEPSDI (Philippine Center for Environmental Protection and Sustainable Development, Inc.). The DTI already has its clear mandate from the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act (R.A. 9003), enabling it to develop this program of “eco-labelling”. The adoption of the “Green Choice” seal of approval is an indispensable instrument in kickstarting the green economy, by way of a “carrot approach”, serving to incentivize product manufacturers and also promote these products to the consumers.

On the other hand, the DPWH on the other hand was able to secure from the DOJ a go-ahead to pursue its green building initiatives and measures, derived from its mandate under the National Building Code “to safeguard life, health, property, and public welfare, consistent with the principles of sound environmental management and control”. And not only that, the DPWH also clearly possesses the technical competence to authoritatively institute effective, viable, affordable, flexible and responsive green building practices for our communities to adopt and follow.
With its enforcement functions under the Building Code, the DPWH can also be viewed as adopting a “stick approach” in the green building effort.

As for the role of Congress, we all have to take this in the context of the tedious bicameral process of lawmaking here in the Philippines. On the part of the Senate, I dare say with pride that we have attempted to do it wholeheartedly. I developed a bill, and put it on the table for discussion. The proponents and stakeholders are here and they can attest to this. Unfortunately, the matter has not gained enough traction in the Lower House to possibly bring it to fruition in the immediate future, thus leaving all our accomplishments in the Senate standing on one leg alone.

So I highly urge this body to also lobby the Lower House to set in constant motion a parallel legislative cycle on green building. Deputy Speaker Henedina Abad had already pledged her support on this at a recent Green Building conference. With that pledge of support, the green building community is thus assured of an ally and champion in the House of Representatives.

Thankfully, the DPWH, with its visionary and proactive leadership under Sec. Babes Singson, was determined not to “wait for Godot” any longer and has taken up the cudgels to develop the maiden Green Building Code, which was unveiled last month by the Department. I believe the DPWH family is here to give us a lowdown on this later on. I sincerely hope that its implementation will proceed smoothly and also gain the widest acceptability by the public.

These twin programs of “green products” and “green building”, under the watch of DTI-PCEPSDI and the DPWH, respectively, combine and complement each other to effectively salvage the Philippine green building situation for now. We can make do with this set-up in the meantime.

Hopefully, there will be no legal challenges from the construction industry or from the public. Huwag naman po sana! Kapag may kokontra, baka pwedeng “Writ of Kalikasan” ang ating ipangtapat dyan!

Joking aside, since the protection of environment and our ecology is the primordial intention in all these, we may not be amiss in being confident that we are correct in our policy decisions and actions.

However, it should be pointed out that the Code is as yet untested in its implementation and enforcement. As the saying goes, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. Or to restyle it for our present purposes, the proof of the “greening” is in the “actual building”!

Effective government regulation is also key if we are to ensure that green building will really lead to concrete ecological benefits and protection of lives, as a result of the widespread use of environment-friendly materials and stronger and more resilient structures.

So, therefore, there are still lots more to be done. The DPWH still has the continuing duty to diagnose the overall regulatory framework that actually takes care of the proper and faithful implementation of its Green Building Code.

And this is where the best and actual practices of our model LGUs—the Cities of Mandaluyong, Makati and Quezon City—will become most useful. Let us not forget that the success of the implementation of these regulations boils down to a local government concern—or, to put it in the negative, a local government problem.

Which is why when were heard my Green Building bill in the Senate, the discussions had unavoidably branched out and led us to a parallel discussion of the need to strengthen the regulatory framework in the LGU level—through the creation of the separate office of the Building Official in cities and certain municipalities, who shall be under the control and supervision of the DPWH.

Of course, the LGUs of Mandaluyong, Makati and Quezon City are all on a different level. They are a step ahead and a cut above the rest, having taken the initiative of creating the “O.B.O.”, or the Office of the Building Official, through mere ordinance!

It is believed that the beefing up of the Building Official is essential to capacitate our local governments to cope with the increasing demands and pressures of their routine and round-the-clock tasks of ensuring safety and resiliency of our buildings, especially in light of important public concerns such as climate change mitigation and disaster risks reduction. This is a necessary structural change that would unburden and unload local engineers who generally have to double as building officials, by exclusively designating to another professional the equally important task of strict enforcement of our National Building Code, including, of course, our Green Building Referral Code.

But as with any serious endeavors, there will surely be “birth pains”. Government and green building CSOs should always be proactive, effective and strong-willed, as they confront, appease and brave the initial apprehensions, criticisms and indifference from a surprised portion of the public. And we say “surprised”, because they had so gotten used to “business-as-usual” lifesyle, and are yet unacquainted and unbaptized in this emerging paradigm and booming industry of “green building”.

We hope, however, that slowly but surely the public will soon realize the importance of green building to our lives as a people, to our communities and, most of all, to the environment. More especially so if green building also carries with it the promise of spurring economic development for our country, creating investments, jobs and economic value for our people in the process.

So I rally the conveners of the Kalikasan GP3 and everybody here to always be visible, vigilant and vociferous advocates in ensuring the completion of our paradigm shift of our people, and in mutually assisting one another in putting together all the institutions and mechanisms essential to “greening” the entire country.

Rest assured, you will always find in this representation an ally and champion in the Senate, in pursuing the needed legislative actions to fine-tune and complement the mechanisms and programs you work so hard to install, implement and enforce.

So I bid you all off to a very productive and meaningful exchange of information and insights in this forum. And on a final note, may I encourage the conveners to collate and condense all the significant findings and observations made here, and then thereafter suggest to Congress the needed adjustments and refinements to our legislation and our institutions.

And through the help of its champions of the environment, Congress will be able to respond timely—and hopefully, with a sense of urgency, as these efforts will all ultimately impact on our continued survival as a people and as a nation.

Our greening efforts continue to be a work in progress. With your consistent contribution, all our efforts would soon evolve to a logical, effective and workable national mechanism that ultimately benefits both our people and our ecology.

Again, I extend all my congratulations and my best wishes for the continued success of the Kalikasan GP3 Expo Conference!

So, here’s to greener products, greener practices and a greener Philippines, which will have the whole global community go green with envy!

Mabuhay ang ating Inang Kalikasan!

Mabuhay ang Pilipinas at ang sambayanang Pilipino!

Maraming salamat po at magandang umaga sa inyong lahat!

Dios ti agngina kadakayo amin!

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