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Date posted: Tuesday, April 08, 2014 | Manila, Philippines

Philippines ups score in global environmental scorecard

THE PHILIPPINES notched gains on environmental issues that impact human and ecosystem health but continued to rank among the countries that needed to do more, according to a global environmental scorecard.

The Philippines cut the chances of a child dying between one and five years but saw its levels of air pollution worsen.
The Philippines cut the chances of a child dying between one and five years but saw its levels of air pollution worsen.

The 2014 Environmental Performance Index (EPI), which used 2012 data, showed the Philippines scoring 44.02 out of 100, an improvement from 43.98 in the previous year even as its ranking slipped to 114 from 113.

The Philippines cut the chances of a child dying between one and five years but saw its levels of air pollution worsen. As such, it scored 60.61 on “environmental health,” up from 60.53 in 2011.

On “ecosystem vitality,” however, it scored 32.95, unchanged from the previous year.

The Philippines’ neighbors did better in contrast. Of six member-countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, the Philippines took the fifth place, just ahead of Vietnam. And of 24 countries in the East Asia and the Pacific, the Philippines ranked 17th.

The EPI scores and ranks countries on the basis of two areas: environmental health, which measures the protection of human health from environmental harm, and ecosystem vitality, which measures ecosystem protection and resource management.

Environmental health, in turn, is determined on the basis of three sub-areas: child mortality; air pollution levels; and access to drinking water and sanitation.

Ecosystem vitality, meanwhile, covers six sub-areas: wastewater treatment; agricultural subsidy reduction; preserving forest cover; preserving fish stocks; protection of habitats and threatened or endangered species; and carbon emission reductions.

The 2014 EPI report covered 178 countries that were home to 99% of the global population. The report, a joint project of the Yale Center for Environmental Law and Policy and the Center for International Earth Science Information Network at Columbia University, was published in January.

Switzerland was on top of the list, scoring 87.67 out of 100. Luxembourg, Australia, Singapore, the Czech Republic, Germany, Spain, Austria, Sweden, and Norway completed the top 10.

Somalia was at 178th. Comprising the rest of the bottom 10 — from 177th to 169th — were Mali, Haiti, Lesotho, Afghanistan, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Bangladesh.

Over a 10-year period, according to the EPI, countries in general made improvements in access to drinking water, access to sanitation and child mortality but slipped when it came to air pollution reduction and preserving fish stocks.

The Philippines posted a 3.21% improvement in its EPI over the 10-year period, having scored 42.65 in 2002.

It showed a 20.21% improvement in access to drinking water and sanitation; 11.8% in the reduction of agricultural subsidies; and 10.38% in child mortality.

The country also managed to reduce its carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. For the period 2000-2010, the country reduced its emissions of CO2 per kilowatt hour of electricity produced by 2.35%.

Fish stocks, however, declined by 25.63% while forest cover, from 2000 to 2012, was reduced by 1.9%.

Wastewater treatment was recently added to the list of indicators. Thus, a time series measure was not possible.

Natural resources economist Agustin L. Arcenas of the University of the Philippines, however, expressed caution in interpreting the EPI.

“While it’s good that we can compare our environmental performance with other countries, this gives us only an idea of how we are doing by international standards. It does not paint the whole picture,” he said.

“It would be unfair to say that a low-income country’s performance on, say, minimizing air pollution was below average given that its government has other pressing concerns such as poverty reduction and lack of schools.”

According to the latest EPI report, least developed countries tended to perform poorly on environmental performance as political instability made addressing the destruction caused by natural disasters doubly challenging.

On the other hand, the developed countries exhibited high scores on child health, access to sanitation and drinking water, protection of habitats and threatened or endangered species, CO2 emission reductions, and treating wastewater but performed poorly on preserving fish stocks and forest covers.

Trade-offs between economic growth and environmental protection were also seen in fast-growing economies, particularly China and India, which scored low on mitigating air pollution. China and India respectively ranked 118th and 155th in the 2014 EPI.

Mr. Arcenas stressed the need for the Philippines to set its own targets, along with the development of its own indicators that can be measured quantitatively, to evaluate its own environmental performance.

“Efforts in environmental protection should be assessed in relation to the country’s economic growth given the trade-offs and the need to maximize public resources. The problem is that, in most cases, we rely on qualitative statements when it comes to protecting the environment. If we have, indeed, made improvements, we need to know how close we are to a target,” he said. — Leo Jaymar G. Uy

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