Countries from Bhutan to the Cook Islands on Saturday vowed to redouble efforts to jointly tackle the pressing issues of climate change, air pollution, safe water, sanitation and hazardous chemicals in pursuit of health and sustainable development.
Concluding the Asia-Pacific Regional Forum on Health and Environment, ministers and officials from 14 countries signed the Manila Declaration, which also calls for action on the emerging issues of antimicrobial resistance, trans-boundary haze and air pollution, transnational waste shipments and marine pollution and destruction of coral reefs.
“We are honored that the output of this Regional Forum will be known as the Manila Declaration on Health and the Environment. This Declaration synthesizes the needed collaboration between the health and environment sectors, both within and between countries,” Vice President Leni Robredo said.
“It is strategic and incisive, for it specifies specific sustainable development goals which the two sectors can work on together to achieve quick wins. We look forward to the implementation of the agreements,” she added.
“As a public health practitioner, I know that health cannot be improved without addressing the environment. It is stating the obvious to say that clean air and safe water, food and sanitation are basic requisites for a healthy life. For us in the health sector, provision of health-care services takes a lot of our time. Yet more hospitals, more doctors, and more nurses are not always the answer to the health problems we face,” Health Secretary Paulyn Jean Ubial said.
“Rather than just simply being the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff, ministries of health must look upstream and advocate for clean sources of energy, healthy housing, environmental protection, and active transport to name a few of the areas that have enormous influence on our health. In this era of sustainable development, the health sector has to reinvent itself as a champion of the Sustainable Development Goals,” Ubial added.
Senator Risa Hontiveros said women “will fight to ensure that the air above is clean, the land around us is free from harmful chemicals and the water below is safe.”
Shin Young-soo, WHO Regional Director for the Western Pacific, underlined the role of the forum as a “concrete example of how we can best tackle emerging challenges when we come together and discuss issues of common concern openly.”
The forum reiterated the need to carefully manage basic necessities for public health such as water quality, food safety and clean air. It stressed the need to create and sustain healthy communities by limiting pollution from power plants, factories, farms and transport.
Poonam Khetrapal Singh, WHO Regional Director for South-East Asia, said “bold leadership is required to address the environmental determinants of health in our respective regions.”
“By effectively addressing environmental health risks we have the opportunity to save lives and mitigate unnecessary ill-health. We must act now to convert our commitments and pledges into action,” the official said. PNA