“Responding to the urgent call for planetary health” was the topic for the FINEX July meeting organized by the Environment Committee. Timely, relevant, certainly very informative and more than a wake-up call for all of us.

Dr. Renzo Guinto showed us there is a close correlation between the planet’s health and our very own health — that the planet’s health is essential to prevent infectious diseases. Do we still wonder why there are many infectious diseases and we have the coronavirus today? With the shutdown due to the virus, there is a corresponding fall in pollution and global emissions.

He also talked about “Doughnut Economics” which is a virtual framework shaped like a donut that advocates balanced sustainable growth to ensure that both humans and the planet thrive. He reminded us: “We belong to earth and not earth belong to man. What we do to earth we do to ourselves.”

WWF-Philippines President and CEO Joel Palma told us in no uncertain terms that now is the turning point for the planet and that we only have a decade left. He showed the production and consumption capacity, and consumption exceeds production. As in a profit and loss statement, if we are spending more than what we earn, clearly there’s a deficit and that’s where we are right now. Unless we consume less or conserve what we have, we have only a decade left.

Very clearly, climate change is a terrible problem. We must solve it fast and now. Approximately three to four new infectious diseases have emerged each year originating from wildlife. What’s the anti-virus? Forests! He also showed global financing issuance, saying green bond financing is still so small and challenged finance executives to do more.

Atty. Romell Cuenca, deputy executive director of the Climate Change Commission, walked us through the government’s initiatives on climate emergencies and pandemic resilience which should be maximized by private sector. Now, we all know the government can only do so much so we in the private sector should do our part.

FINEX Environment Committee Chair Marivic Sugapong’s main takeaway from the discussion is that progress and sustainability are not opposing objectives but are in fact complementary. Collectively, the private sector can positively advance the planetary health agenda. As the earth’s capacity is fixed, it is the people who should adjust.

Vilma Cervantes, deputy GM of Mizuho, commented that protecting our planet and thus, our public health, should not be limited to corporate social responsibility or CSR activities of companies and organizations but should be part of the core strategy of businesses. Everyone has a role to play, from the basics of how we live and eat.

Other FINEX environment members which include Vice Chair Chito Oreta, Omy Yaptinchay, Tony Ongsiako and Adele Jaucian, among others, are all committed to do simple practical things to reduce their carbon footprint. Some examples of these are:

• Practice zero waste .

• Segregate biodegradable from non-biodegradable waste.

• Compost vegetable and fruit peelings, eggshells and coffee grounds to fertilize plants.

• Conserve water by watering plants with rice washing water (hugas bigas) and shampoo water, etc.

• Start gardening.

• Plant edible and medicinal plants. It is therapeutic and provides healthy nutritious food.

• Start planting a forest of native trees (no matter how small).

• Avoid use of plastics. Say no to plastic straws and one-time use of plastic.

• Use handkerchief instead of tissue paper. Always carry shopping bags.

• Change lights to LED and or use solar lights, even just in the garden.

Are you contributing to the health of planet earth or are you making it sick?  Are you a problem or helping with a solution? That is the question all of us should ask ourselves every day. I do hope and pray that we start taking care of planet earth and our environment starting today, before it is too late.


Ms. Flor Gozon Tarriela is chairman of the Philippine National Bank and PNB Capital. She is a former undersecretary of Finance and the first Filipina vice-president of Citibank N.A. She is a trustee of FINEX Foundation and FINEX Academy and an Institute of Corporate Directors fellow.