Friends to keep the world clean

Ambassador Teddy Locsin Jr.’s remarks at The Group of Friends of a pollution-free world

“Thank you for organizing this first meeting of The Group of Friends and for inviting me. I have recommended to Manila that the Philippines join the group. Capital will be only too pleased to join the friends of a pollution-free world. We are a country on the receiving end of other countries’ garbage. We’d like it to stop.

“In two weeks our leaders and ministers, partners and stakeholders will be at the UN to mobilize global support for the protection of the world’s oceans, seas, and marine resources, which deserve only the most carefully studied sustainable development. The Ocean Conference to support Sustainable Development Goal 14 can be a game-changer for us all to ensure that the earth—whose habitability depends entirely on the health of its oceans—will not perish from what we have done to it and failed to do for it. Global warming plays the most destructive role but pollution is not far behind.

“For the most part it comes from the land and the things we do on it. UNCLOS was a victory whose fruits among others are the recognition of Exclusive Economic Zones and of oceans as humankind’s heritage. But it will be a pyrrhic victory if we go on dumping waste on them, a lot of it imperishable. When mankind finally makes something immortal, it seems it will be garbage.

“True, if global warming is not stopped the oceans will rise and swallow the land. But well before that we shall drown in garbage, a lot of it from advanced economies. The Philippines has addressed this threat in the 2012 Manila Declaration, which seeks the protection of the earth’s waters from land-based polluting activities.

“We look forward to contributions from The Group of Friends that will enrich the dialogue in the Oceans Conference. We are particularly interested in learning how we can enhance cooperation and coordination, especially capacity-building. Countries like ours, which have not the wherewithal to export waste, are compelled to deal with it in-country and can only benefit from The Friends’ shared experiences and best practices.

“We have much to learn from each other. We look forward to the time when we have achieved such a measure of success that we can change our name from friends of a pollution-free world to friends to keep the world clean. Thank you.”

I turned to the host, Macharia Kumau, the elegant and well-spoken Kenyan ambassador who hosted the event, and who said that The Friends hoped to make Pollution Free World a side event to the main conferences. I said that quite the contrary, it can be a stand alone event because this is one cause in which everyone can list to keep their places clean and clean up after themselves. It took a fashionable statement in Manila that one would rather be caught dead with a plastic bag rather than a canvas one brought from home for the shopping to start the serious phase out of plastic bags. I wish Gina Lopez can be here for this event because she takes it seriously. I also hope this event will end the export of garbage from advanced countries proud to call themselves pollution free because naturally they export their waste (hazardous at that) to countries like ours.



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