Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte blasted the United States’ withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement and called on all countries to honor the historic deal during the opening of the Asia Pacific Healthy Islands Conference here.
“Climate change is not a typhoon that visits your country once a year. Climate change is a day to day problem,” Duterte said, adding that “a one degree change in the temperature would be disastrous.”
In 2015, the Philippines joined forces with Pacific island nations and other developing countries to ensure the Paris climate agreement limits global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. This week, the country hosted the conference with several Pacific island nations to link practical solutions with various public health problems worsened by the impacts of climate change.
Health Secretary Magdalena Walter of the Federated States of Micronesia said on the sidelines of the conference that their small islands are facing not only the climbing waves of non-communicable diseases but also the rising seas brought about by climate change.
“We’ve seen the impact of global warming with sea level rise. It’s also part of climate change, some unexpected diseases which we’ve never had before. Food security is really a big challenge because of people moving from the smaller islands to the bigger central areas, said Secretary Walter, who was a nurse in her country for over 20 years. “The question now is how to house them, how to feed them.”
Tuvalu’s health minister Satini Tulaga Manuella said their country, composed of atoll islands with no high ground, is on the forefront of climate change.
“As (health) minister, the issue I am more concerned with is the impact of climate change on our people. Because we are very vulnerable to climate change and the infrastructure that we have doesn’t equip us to protect our people,” he said.
A Philippine climate and energy policy group lauded the country’s concerted drive to act on public health and climate resilience as the Asia Pacific Healthy Islands Conference came to a close here.
“The government is taking the right approach to tackle climate change from a development lens, combining health, climate and resilience,” said Renato Redentor Constantino, executive director of the Institute for Climate and Sustainable Cities.