CLIMATE CHANGE remains a top priority for the national government even as it deals with the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) outbreak, Environment Secretary Roy A. Cimatu said.

At a virtual briefing Wednesday, Mr. Cimatu, head of the Cabinet Cluster on Climate Change Adaptation, Mitigation, and Disaster Risk Reduction, said climate change poses bigger problems than the pandemic because of the existential risk for future generations.

“The climate emergency remains as urgent as ever.  It is like the COVID-19 emergency, just in slow motion and much graver,” Mr. Cimatu said during the Pre-SONA (State of the Nation Address) forum of the Security, Justice, and Peace Cluster, and the Climate Change Adaptation and Mitigation and Disaster Risk Reduction Cluster.

Mr. Cimatu, who currently heads the task force trying to contain the outbreak in Cebu, said changing climate has a “domino effect” which can lead to other serious risks such as ecosystem instability, food insecurity, and conflict.

Further, Mr. Cimatu said that ecosystem and biodiversity loss resulting from climate change can also threaten the planet’s ability to produce goods and services.

Despite the spread of COVID-19, Mr. Cimatu said the national government will use the public health emergency as an opportunity to accelerate climate-change mitigation measures.

“The government, through the Cabinet Cluster on Climate Change, will prioritize action and investment that will reduce long-term health impacts and increase our resilience and adaptive capacity to both the coronavirus pandemic and climate change,” Mr. Cimatu said.

Mr. Cimatu said the government will continue to ensure clean air, water and access to natural resources, while strengthening the resilience of critical infrastructure.

In addition, Mr. Cimatu said that environmental protection programs such as solid waste management, reforestation and biodiversity preservation must stay consistent with the national government’s COVID-19 response.

The cluster was created by Executive Order No. 24, series of 2017. — Revin Mikhael D. Ochave