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2 months before Cancun, Philippine Climate Commission still in disarray

Oct. 30, 2010, CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY, PHILIPPINES –Less than two months before the Cancum Climate Change Summit, the Philippine Climate Change Commission is still in disarray, with its chairperson, no less than the President of the Republic Benigno Simeon Aquino still to conven an en banc meeting of the Commission.

In the Philippine Congress. some lawmakers have called for the exercise by the legislature of its oversight powers to check “unilateralism” in the Climate Change Commission and enable it to come up with adaptation plans that will make the country less vulnerable to the impacts of climatic alterations, according to House Resolution 514 filed by Cagayan de Oro 2nd District Rep. Rufus Rodriguez and Abante Mindanao party list Rep. Maximo B. Rodriguez.

“We have entered the season of likely climate-induced disasters as evidenced by Typhoon Juan and the resulting destruction especially in Northern Luzon. While President Aquino is very happy with the way the effective implementation of disaster preparations, he still has to put the Climate Change Commission in order,” said Rep. R. Rodriguez.

“The Commission needs to craft plans based not on one man’s whims but on the input of the entire Commission together with government agencies, civil society and communities. We have to move quickly and solidly as one team,” he added.

The lawmaker was alluding to Heherson Alvarez, the climate change adviser of the Arroyo administration and currently a member of the Commission who has been widely criticized for his unilateral actions in the Commission.

Alvarez was hailed to the Senate last month after Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile found out that the country had incurred loans for climate mitigation. He was also accused of taking on the power of the Commission’s chair by making important decisions without consultation.

The environment think-tank Institute for Climate and Sustainable Cities (ICSC) meanwhile called for a stop to what it calls “governance chaos plaguing the administration of climate finance in the country and the enforcement of collegiality” in the Commission whose creation was mandated by the Climate Change Act of 2009 or RA 9729.

ICSC policy coordinator Ignacio Sayajon III said that “the move to form the Congressional Oversight Committee on Climate Change is urgent. Unless fundamental problems besetting the Commission are resolved, the implementation of the country’s climate plans will continue to be hampered.”

Rep. M. Rodriguez said the Commission needs to take immediate steps to directly access untied finance from resources such as the UN Adaptation Fund (AF), which became operational this year.

“The structure, principles and financing modalities of the AF was long championed by the Philippines in the UN climate treaty debate. We must move to leverage funding from it, because it has financing modalities that allow the country to sidestep conditionality-heavy, bureaucratic funding from institutions such as the World Bank. At the same time, we must act to mobilize domestic funds for adaptation, because the need is urgent,” he said.

“More than plans, Congress needs to establish on long-term, predictable, community-biased funds for adaptation. Vulnerable Filipino communities, especially women in agriculture, deserve no less,” he added.

In a talk before climate campaigners belonging to the coalition Aksyon Klima last Tuesday, Climate Commission Lucille Sering underscored the urgency for President Aquino to sit down with the Commission.

RA 9729 mandates the President of the Republic to be the Chairperson of the Climate Change Commission. It has three members, namely, Alvarez, lawyer Lucille Sering and Naderev “Yeb” Sano.

At the center of the climate debate now is the financing of climate mitigation and adaptation. Mitigation primarily refers to cuts in carbon and other greenhouse gas emissions by developed countries like the US, European states, United Kingdom, Japan and even China.

Adaptation measures refer to interventions that help developing countries which are vulnerable to climate change impacts like the Philippines become resilient to extreme weather events like typhoons.

Aid in terms of adaptation is viewed as a form of compensation, a matter of “climate justice” for the damage caused by the developed countries.

Data from the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB-DENR 2010) reveal that the country has incurred a total of P1,230,028,564 pesos or more than US$1.2 billion in loans for adaptation compared to the US$369,847,995 in grants for mitigation.

“Eh parang sinunog yung bahay natin, then yung nagsunog magpapautang ng pera natin para makabili ng noodles at kape, para di tayo magutom (It’s like our house was burned and those responsible loaned money to us so that we can noodles and coffee for us not to get hungry),” said Red Constantino, ICSC Executive Director. (BenCyrus G. Ellorin, climatechange.thinkaboutit.eu)

Photo by iCSC/Reina

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