CANDABA, Pampanga, Philippines --Act with solidarity against global warming.
President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo made this pitch for the environment on Friday as she warned that rising sea levels may swamp the country's more than 7,000 islands.
Arroyo made the call during the first Ibon-Ebun (Birds-Eggs) Festival here where she praised local officials and residents for conserving the Candaba Swamp and making it a thriving refuge for migratory birds.
The swamp, spanning 32,000 hectares in Bulacan, Pampanga and Nueva Ecija, is one of the three major wetlands in the country.
Candaba, she said, has struck the "right balance between the needs of the people and the environment." This was the festival's theme.
"In the case of our country as a whole, we have begun the Green Philippines Plan. This is a blueprint for mapping our environment and economic policies that will allow for sustainable development that does not fall on the back of the poor or erode our environment," she said.
She said efforts to heal the environment were important because of rising tides, changing weather, deforestation, and pollution of air, sea and land.
"The challenges of the environment of this side of climate change are great. Our country has more than 7,000 islands so in our country if the seas rise due to global warming, that takes on a whole new meaning. Florida in America may lose some (of its existing) coastlines but we could lose our whole nation," she said.
"Our intent is very serious. We must work together to solve this problem, like Candaba is doing its part to take care of the Candaba Swamp."
One of the great achievements of Candaba, she said, was that it has transformed the town "from one where there are floods throughout the year, people are always sick, there's very little agricultural activities and birds rarely come to one where there is a reverse of all of that."
"Every nation, developed or developing, progressive or poor, must assume the mantle of leadership and address the challenge of climate change," she said.
Bird hunters, smokers and polluters have a share of the blame, she said, but added that "all the apportionment of blame does nothing against a rising tide of global warming that will swamp our nation if we do not act with solidarity."
She added: "What we need is unity. Unity is a real aspiration that manifests itself through progress. Unity is about action, not discussion. It is about working together, not just talking together."