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ASEAN Biodiversity Heroes

Senator Loren Legarda

Multifaceted eco-warrior champions the environment in the media and legislative arenas 

Growing up in the City of Malabon, a flood-prone area in Metro Manila, Philippines, Senator Loren Legarda had witnessed first-hand the impact of environmental destruction.

Her exposure to the crippling consequences of climate change continued as she pursued a career in journalism, igniting the flame of advocacy she would continue to uphold decades after. As an award-winning broadcast journalist, Senator Legarda used the powerful platform of media to fight for environmental protection. In 1996, she hosted “Earth Link,” a pioneering environmental TV program. However, as her television career advanced in a span of over 20 years, she found herself interested, more and more, in finding solutions to the problems she was reporting on.

Determined to see her fight for environmental protection translated into tangible results, she decided to bring her cause to a much larger space – the national legislative arena. In 1998, she became the youngest woman senator of the Philippines at 38 years old.

Now in her fourth term in the Senate, Senator Legarda has become known as the most prominent environment politician and the Philippines’ foremost advocate of green development. For the past three decades, she has worked, sponsored, and authored landmark laws on environmental governance, protection of the environment, climate change, and conservation of natural resources, among other issues.

One of the earliest laws that she principally authored, the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act (Republic Act No. 9003), was passed into law in January 2001. Other pioneering environmental laws that she principally authored and sponsored include the Climate Change Act of 2009 (Republic Act No. 9729), the Environmental Awareness Education Act (Republic Act No. 9512), the Clean Air Act (Republic Act No. 8749), and the Expanded National Integrated Protected Areas System Act (Republic Act No. 11038), among others. 

In March 2017, Senator Legarda also successfully secured the Senate’s unanimous concurrence in the accession to the Paris Agreement, which demonstrated how she champions climate action, environmental protection, and sustainable development. She also sponsored the International Convention on the Control of Harmful Anti-Fouling Systems on Ships or the AFS Convention, and the agreement between the Government of the Philippines and the International Center for Living Aquatic Resources Management to Establish the Office of the WorldFish Center in the Philippines (ICLARM) when she was the Chairperson of the Committee on Foreign Relations, among others. 

Beyond her call of duty as a senator, she spearheaded an information and education campaign on the science of climate change, its impact on people’s everyday lives and how Filipinos can avert and adapt to the changing climate. These short films include “Ulan sa Tag-Araw: Isang Dokyu-drama Ukol sa Pagbabago ng Klima” (Rains in the Summer: A Documentary Drama on Climate Change), children’s animation movie “Ligtas Likas”, “Buhos” (Downpour), “Philippine Marine Biodiversity,” “Antique: Coral Restoration Program,” and and the full-length film “Taklub” directed by Brillante Ma. Mendoza, which won the Ecumenical Jury Prize-Special Mention at the Cannes Film Festival in 2015.

Senator Legarda also collaborated with the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) in the documentary “Now is the Time,” which calls on leaders and decision-makers to strive for disaster-resilient development.

In April 2014, in a bid to raise awareness of the current condition of the country’s marine life and underwater resources, Senator Legarda launched a video documentary on Philippine marine biodiversity. She said the video documentary, which was launched on Earth Day, was part of her “continuing advocacy to educate and enlighten Filipinos about marine life, how it affects our own life and livelihood, what is at stake if we lose these resources and what we can and must do to protect our seas.” 

Through the greening program she founded in 1998, “Luntiang Pilipinas” (Green Philippines), which planted two million trees on more than 500 hectares across the Philippines, Senator Legarda enjoined the participation of stakeholders in this environmental advocacy.

Over the years, Senator Legarda has emerged as a game changer for Asia, with her compelling vision for a just, safer, and greener world for all. She advocates for sustainable living in harmony with nature by seeking the path for green growth and resilient development for nations. Working with world leaders, she has pushed for locally led adaptation measures to help save our home planet and protect all of humankind.

Her inspiring advocacy for environmental protection has earned her global recognition. She has been recognized as a Global Leader for Tomorrow by the World Economic Forum and was among the Global 500 Roll of Honor of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

In addition to these achievements, she is also a Global Champion for Resilience of the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR), a National Adaptation Plan Champion of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), a Commissioner of the Global Commission on Adaptation (GCA), the Women Political Leaders (WPL) Global Ambassador for Disaster Risk Reduction and Climate Change and the Climate Vulnerable Forum (CVF) Ambassador for Parliaments.

For her contribution to protecting the environment and pushing for climate change adaptation policies, the University of the Philippines (UP) chose Senator Legarda as its 2013 Distinguished Alumna for Environmental Protection and Climate Change Adaptation.

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