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Delivering the Philippine Statement at the Joint High-Level Segment of the climate change summit in Marrakech, Morocco on Monday, Environment Secretary Gina Lopez said that combating climate change and economic development must go hand in hand as nations strive to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

"Should the change in the planet's temperature escalate to more than 1.5 degrees, we stand to lose whatever economic gains we make. The planet simply cannot afford an indecisive ambiguity about what needs to be done. The situation is clear - anything more than 1.5 degrees will destroy possibilities for quality of life," Lopez said.

She added: "We do not need to give up economic growth - from clean energy, to sustainable transportation, to all facets of life. We need to have the courage to change the way we do things. We cannot and must not build an economy based on suffering."

Thus, Lopez said the Philippines will embark on a massive expansion of mangrove and bamboo plantations to strengthen the ecological and economic resilience of local communities in the face of climate change and its devastating impacts.

"We will go heavily into mangroves because, as our experience with typhoon Yolanda showed, the islands with mangroves suffered 80-percent less damage to lives and property," Lopez pointed out.

"The thrust will not only save our islands but will create economic zones because of the resulting increase in marine life. If handled well, our people can get out of poverty."

The DENR chief said the country will plant millions of bamboos, which not only perform "superbly" in sequestering carbon from the atmosphere but could also be used as material for buildings, low-cost housing, floor tiles and textiles, and for cleaning polluted waterways."

With the planned expansion of its mangrove and bamboo plantations, Lopez said the Philippines will prove that climate-change adaption and mitigation and inclusive economic growth do not necessarily have to be separate choices.

"These objectives can all be achieved given the right approach," Lopez pointed out.

Lopez was tasked by Malacañang to attend the Marrakech summit, officially billed as the 22nd Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. It served as the first meeting of governments since the adoption of the historic Paris Agreement on Climate Change in December last year.

In her speech, Lopez proposed that the Philippines which, according to her is in the "firing line" of climate change, "be one venue for scientists as we explore ways for humanity to move forward."

"I propose a dynamic direction of creating climate-change models that send the message, 'it can be done and we can do it!' The rules of the Paris Agreement can state what the performance indicators of these models should be," she added.

Lopez noted that the Philippines, a country of more than 7,100 islands, has the highest biodiversity endemicity per unit area in the world. This means that 70 percent of the biodiversity found in the Philippines can only found in the country, she said.

"We have more than 3000 species of marine life, including a snail the venom of which has been found by a Nobel laureate to be better than morphine in addressing pain without the side effects," Lopez said.

"Our sponges and shells are effective in addressing cancer, and we are barely scratching the surface of what there is. This is not just the wealth of the Philippines - it is the wealth of all of us together."

In closing, Lopez said she was in awe at the dynamism and non-negotiable commitment of the leaders of the climate change movement.

"If we all imbibe this consciousness deep in our hearts and manifest it in ground level reality - humanity faces a bright future if we continue to bloom this spirit of working together," Lopez said. "The Philippines is making a commitment to this exciting future." #

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