Aquino touts tourism, warns of climate change impact

·Kim Arveen Patria
President Benigno Aquino of the Philippines arrives at Naypyitaw international airport to attend the 24th ASEAN Summit May 10, 2014. Myanmar chairs the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) this year. REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun (MYANMAR - Tags: POLITICS) (REUTERS)

Tourism may be one of the easiest means to achieve inclusive growth, but extreme weather conditions such as typhoon Yolanda threaten the country’s fastest-growing sector, President Benigno Aquino III said.
 
He thus urged the international community on Monday to form a united front in addressing climate change, noting that all governments are stakeholders when it comes to the issue.
 
“If we do not tackle it head on, this ‘new normal’ brought about by climate change will be here to stay and we will be forced to make unfair choices between disaster risk management and development,” Aquino said.
 
He was speaking at the United Nations World Tourism Organization’s ASEAN International Conference on Tourism and Climate Change held in Legazpi City, one of the areas frequented by typhoons.
 
Ignoring the problem of climate change, the President said, will give rise to alarming realities such as rising temperatures, dropping food and water supplies and water levels that may threaten the existence of island nations.
 
“[W]e must start taking action now,” Aquino noted, adding that taking on the challenge of climate change requires international effort, with every government revisiting how it takes climate change into account.
 
He added that the tourism sector is “deeply concerned with the evolving demands of the new normal.” The President cited as an example how Yolanda ravaged some of the country’s top tourist destinations in 2013.
 
Yolanda showed that though tourism is a “low-lying fruit” for the Philippines, the industry’s success is “tied to how we deal with the problem of climate change,” Aquino said in his speech.
 
“[Yolanda] affected 44 of our 81 provinces. Thousands of Filipinos lost their lives, and so many more lost their homes and literally everything they owned, and industries grinded to a halt,” Aquino said.
 
This, even as he highlighted the efforts his agencies exerted to prepare for and respond to the monster storm. Several groups have recently slammed the government, calling it laggard in addressing post-Yolanda issues.
 
Among the problems that continue to plague the government after Yolanda are the provision of temporary housing, proper health services, as well as proper maternal care, critics have said.
 
The President, for his part, highlighted his directive for agencies to make “certain that the houses and infrastructure we are rebuilding in the damaged areas will be sturdier and more resilient.”
 
As for the tourism industry, Aquino said the government’s response is to “plan ahead and reduce the impact of the effects of climate change on our tourist destinations, amongst others.”
 
Climate change adaptation has also been mainstreamed at all levels of government. Aquino also showcased efforts at improving renewable energy sources, such as the country’s first large-scale solar power plant in Negros Occidental.
 
“To truly fix the problem, however, efforts such as this cannot come from just one country; this responsibility falls on the shoulders of every person, community, city, and nation,” the President said.

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