House Deputy Speaker Antique Rep. Loren Legarda has urged member-countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to vigorously push for initiatives seeking to promote environmental sustainability and resilience to sustain their socioeconomic gains and reduce poverty.
“I recognize the ASEAN’s potential contribution to shaping the overall direction of development cooperation. It is also time to boost initiatives in pursuing green growth and environmental resilience to sustain our economies’ socio-economic growth without compromising the natural environment,” Loren said at the recent virtual ASEAN Forum on Sub-Regional Development, hosted by Vietnam, the current ASEAN chairman.
“For the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) countries, economic success is anchored on the region’s rich natural resources. However, a steady depletion of natural stocks is resulting in the decline and degradation in ecosystem services and environmental quality, which threatens to undermine sustainable development. Thus, green growth should be pursued to provide greater opportunities for GMS countries to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals,” Loren added.
She cited the need to upgrade the management of common environmental resources in the Southeast Asian region, particularly in the GMS, which is a natural economic area bound together by the Mekong River with a combined population of around 326 million.
The GMS countries are Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam, and China, specifically Yunnan Province and Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region.
“Sustainability must be viewed as the indivisibility and inseparability of the region’s environmental goals and actions from the socioeconomic ones. Our current paradigm of progress reflects our desire to uplift the quality of living in the region by boosting socio-economic growth, but neglecting to consider the other part of the sphere — which is the aspect of environmental management,” Loren said.
She hailed the ASEAN’s efforts to promote regional development initiatives which complement existing development cooperation frameworks, including the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), even as she urged the region to intensify action and continuously work together to attain sustainability and improve the region’s suitability for human living.
She noted that the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP) in its 2020 progress report on the SDGs raised concern that “the Asia-Pacific region cannot expect to achieve the SDGs by 2030 without accelerated action.”
In its report, the UNESCAP said while the region “is making good progress on SDG targets related to economic growth,” for it to grow more sustainably and equitably, “the current economic progress of the region must be coupled with human well-being and a healthy environment.”
“The cultural and political diversities and uneven economic status among the concerned countries are hurdles even if the sub-regions are governed by the same environmental and socioeconomic issues like pockets of poverty. External vested interests and the disparity of responses by the concerned ASEAN economies also undermine what could otherwise be pronounced common benefits for the ASEAN people,” Loren said.
“As one region, we must promote inclusive growth, equally boost competitiveness and connectivity, and seek to usher in more equitable development by linking less developed sub-regions with the more developed ones. Harmony and consistency must be constantly ensured between and among regional and national policies, plans, and programs focusing on the pursuit of sustainable development, so that progress in the region is equally extended to the sub-regions.”
The ASEAN Forum on Sub-Regional Development is a virtual gathering of ASEAN Senior Officials Meeting (SOM) Leaders, Mekong SOM Leaders, representatives of relevant agencies from ASEAN countries, representatives from the Mekong River Commission, the United Nations, Asian Development Bank, World Bank, and stakeholders from various countries.