MANILA, Philippines — On World Children’s Day, Vice President Sara Duterte emphasized the need to address climate change, a threat that she says disproportionately affects children and threatens their future.
“The climate crisis is a child rights crisis,” Duterte said in a statement during the celebration of World Children’s Day with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in Quezon City,
“From rising sea levels and adverse weather conditions to air pollution and resource scarcity, the climate crisis affects children’s lives, education and health. And climate change is hitting Filipino children hard,” she added.
Duterte noted that the country is prone to natural disasters such as typhoons and earthquakes, as well as human-induced disasters such as conflicts, insurgencies and terrorism.
She also cited reports such as the World Risk Index for 2022, which ranks the Philippines first in disaster risk; and a 2019 World Bank policy research working paper, which estimates the Philippines’ average annual asset losses due to disasters at $1.4 billion, while welfare losses are higher, estimated at 3.9 billion dollars annually.
These displacements, Duterte said, cause an increase in illnesses, respiratory illnesses and long-term mental health problems among children.
It also affects children’s learning by forcing them to miss school, which in turn affects their future.
“Disasters have far-reaching consequences, especially trauma to children. As parents, we are traumatized. And the children (we, the parents, are traumatized. What about the children?),” Duterte said.
Because of this, Duterte has emphasized the need to invest in climate-resilient communities and infrastructure to protect children from the effects of climate change.
“Together with other government agencies and donors, we must give our children and youth a meaningful participation in the fight against climate change,” Duterte said.
According to Duterte, adults have a crucial role in creating an environment where children can thrive and contribute to a sustainable future.
READ: Young people in PH, more vulnerable to climate change, also more active in combating the crisis
“We can start by reducing our carbon footprint and living sustainably,” Duterte said.
“We must also promote programs that encourage children to improve their communities’ resilience to disasters,” she added.
READ: 9.7 million Filipino children displaced by disasters – Unicef
Duterte also said the Philippines can set an example by creating a national plan to engage children and youth in disaster risk reduction and climate action at local and national levels, establishing children and youth groups, providing community education, training, exchanges of learning, and lobbying and influencing policy.
READ: Unicef urges Duterte government to act on recorded cases of child abuse
“The Philippines can lead by solving the climate crisis and protecting children’s rights,” he added.
The Vice President said the upcoming COP28, or Conference of the Parties (COP) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), presents a critical opportunity for the Philippine government to design and implement child-sensitive climate actions that prioritize children’s needs and perspectives.