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Environmentalists laud Duterte's stand on climate change

President Rodrigo Duterte underscored the need for environmental conservation and protection in his lengthy State of the Nation Address (SONA) on Monday afternoon, July 24, eliciting praise from at least one environmental watchdog.

"Ang palayan natuyo, at ang soil nag-crack, so farmers can't eat anymore... Ganun ang nangyari sa Pilipino,"  Duterte said, talking initially about the negative impacts of unbridled mining activities on local communities.

"The protection of the environment must be made a priority ahead of mining and all other activities that adversely affect [the environment] in one way or another, and this policy is non-negotiable," he said.

"In the extraction and the utilization of these resources, extreme care must be exercised [so] that we do not recklessly and needlessly harm the environment," he added.

But the president also pulled back and tackled the bigger picture of a country that is vulnerable to disasters exacerbated by climate change.

"When nature fights back, it does so with a vengeance... We still have to recover from the beatings that we got (from Yolanda)," Duterte said, adding that there is an urgent need for the government to act decisively against imminent disasters.

Institute for Climate and Sustainable Cities executive director Renato Redentor Constantino welcomed the president's pro-environment stance.

"By recognizing the threat of climate change to food production in his latest State of the Nation Address, President Duterte is following through on his promise in his first SONA last year to prioritize climate action. It is consistent with his push to ratify the Paris Agreement," Constantino said in a press release sent to GMA News Online.

"The Duterte cabinet must follow his lead and take advantage of their remaining five years in power as science presents an increasingly worsening state of the climate. Government must attack with impatience policies that prevent the country from surviving climate-induced disasters and thriving despite its monumental threats to our people. The fortunes of coal continue to plummet worldwide even as more countries pursue low-carbon transformation of their economies," he concluded. — TJD/KVD, GMA News