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Amazing things

by: Red Constantino, September 17, 2012

As far as book ends are concerned, few things can compete with Fridays. The day is about closure, at least in the interim, a time to loosen the knickers, a day of respite. Whether it’s a week long slog at work or five days of bravado, the end of the last day of a working week is a cause for minor celebration. Whether the final venue is the family dinner table or a bar with friends and a looney bartender, Fridays cap things off like no other day can. It’s the day the busy metropolis lets off a collective sigh of relief.

Because the week’s done and the next day’s a picnic, a time for renewal. Yet last Friday was more special than others. Just around dusk,

onboard a van bound for Cubao, good friends pointed out to me an image that blazed on the massive electronic billboard along EDSA Guadalupe, which would have been visible to all north-bound commuters and motorists: “PNoy signs People’s Survival Fund, allots P1B for climate adaptation” and it was so bright it almost blared. From inside our van, the cheers were deafening. We knew the bill had already been signed, and that it was now officially called Republic Act 10174. But still, it was a site to see, especially since I had spent most of the day at the Promenade of G Hotel, along Roxas Boulevard, near Quirino Ave. I was there with less than a handful of civil society colleagues to participate in an event unenticingly called the “Multi-Stakeholder Consultation on Climate Finance” organized by the Climate Change Commission and GIZ. Fortunately, the agenda more than made up for the sedate activity title.

Two big chunks comprised the G Hotel event: one was the presentation of the work by the German Mission of GIZ that discussed the findings of GIZ’s “Preparing the Ground for Climate Finance Readiness in the Philippines” initiative. The other involved the operationalization of the People’s Survival Fund, the country’s first legislated direct access-driven climate finance mechanism dedicated to supporting early adaptation action by local governments and communities. Working with a broad coalition of local governments, civil society groups and legislators, iCSC was instrumental in getting the PSF crafted, passed and enacted (signed by President Aquino last August 16) inside two years.

I was certainly excited. The G Hotel event marked the first time that national government agency officials and representatives from the contributor community represented over 95 percent of participants in a PSF discussion. What made this even more special was that most of the participating agencies were from or carried a measure of finance in their portfolio. A team of managers from the Department of Finance was present and actively participated throughout the plenary sessions and workshops, together with officials from the Insurance Commission, Commission on Audit, Bangko Sentral, the League of Provinces, the Departments of Interior and Local Government, Agriculture, Science and Technology, Agrarian Reform, and Environment and Natural Resources (representing the agency’s foreign-assisted programs), members of the Housing council, the National Anti-Poverty Commission and so on.

The discussions were in-depth and reflected the unique technical expertise of members of the largely unsung Philippine bureaucracy, who are responsible for formulating policy and attending to the implementation agenda of the national government. The interest on the PSF was huge and the questions were numerous and detailed and involved strategic issues. The eager sense of engagement from the agencies – and the response to one another – could not have come at a better time. The Climate Change Commission is leading the formulation of the Implementing Rules and Regulations for the PSF. Simultaneous with the effort is is the problematization and crafting of policy instruments that the PSF Board will agree on once the Fund becomes operational.

The Aquino government and both chambers of Congress deserve not only the applause of the public but the public’s collaboration as well. We need to respond to the climate crisis not only with wisdom but also with an unparalleled determination to do things together, because nothing less than the survival of local and national development ambitions is at stake..

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