A RECENT study by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) argues that a green recovery from the economic downturn of the Covid-19 pandemic is crucial to the well-being of Southeast Asia, particularly the Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand, Cambodia and Myanmar. As the Philippines moves further from the ill effects, literally and figuratively, of the pandemic, and at this particular moment when a new administration is just beginning its work, we believe the ADB's recommendation should be one of the cornerstones of national policy moving forward.

The report, titled "Implementing a Green Recovery in Southeast Asia," is a product of the Southeast Asian Department of ADB and was released publicly at the end of May. It makes a relatively straightforward but powerful assertion: well-designed policy measures that take environmental sustainability into account can achieve both socioeconomic and environmental goals, but on the other hand, not addressing "the environmental crises of climate change and biodiversity loss," will constrain the region's long-term growth prospects as worsening environmental challenges will impact lives and livelihoods to an ever-increasing degree.

From the ADB's point of view, the five countries in focus are making some moves in the right direction, such as investments in green infrastructure, but "there are also areas of concern," such as fossil fuel subsidies and various environmental deregulation initiatives. One local example of a step in the wrong direction is the deeply flawed proposed Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) law, which we highlighted in Wednesday's editorial and which would have a host of unintended environmental consequences.

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Shifting policy to prioritize a "green recovery" has four key advantages, according to ADB. First, it will help to safeguard against future pandemics due to the growing link between environmental and human health. Second, it is obviously important for directly addressing the already severe and worsening effects of climate change and biodiversity loss in the region. Third, it presents numerous opportunities to achieve significant economic stimulus. And finally, it is critical for strengthening the region's long-term competitiveness.

To jump-start policy development, the ADB report details five areas in which not only are the most productive opportunities for growth in the focus countries available, but which the countries cannot ignore if they wish to avoid further economic hardship. These areas are productive and regenerative agriculture; sustainable urban development and transport models; clean energy transitions; circular economy models, which primarily address the growing waste problem in the region; and healthy and productive oceans.

The relevance of all of these subjects to the Philippines is quite obvious, and to the Marcos administration's credit, much of its early policy orientation is already directed toward some of these aims. What is more interesting about the ADB report, however, and what may encourage the government to sharpen its focus even more is the study's subtext.

There are two implicit messages in the report. First, the five "green opportunities" highlighted by ADB are common issues among the focus countries; the report in fact devotes a couple of pages to explaining the research methodology behind the selection of these areas for development. That means they are areas of potential cooperation for the Philippines and its neighbors, which in turn hints at a whole galaxy of new potential trade and business opportunities.

The second implied message of the report is that ADB is willing to support the efforts in these areas by the governments in question with the substantial resources at its disposal. The opposite of that coin, of course, is that requests for assistance for government initiatives or programs that are outside these broad areas or run counter to their goals are probably not going to be received with much sympathy.

We would hope that the Marcos administration critically considers the ADB recommendations in the context in which they were presented, a broad set of recommendations backed by solid research that can help point policy and development in the most positive direction. We believe it is the direction the country needs to take, though the specific steps along the way might be debated, and evolve with changing circumstances.