Philippine climate network Aksyon Klima today challenged both chambers of Congress to “respond decisively to the Yolanda crisis by wielding the national budget to address both immediate relief efforts and the long-term ability of localities to adapt to the new normal of uncertainty.”
“The provision of shelter and succor to the suffering is absolutely urgent. But we must couple this effort as well with long-term funding measures that can make localities cope better with climate change,” the group said.
“The national budget is our shield, our main line of defense against the rapidly changing global climate. Congress must rise to the occasion, above the taint of pork. It must deploy massive funding for the relief effort, Aksyon Klima coordinator Voltaire Alferez said.
But it must also ensure that long-term climate
resilience financing mechanisms for local government units are in place, to reduce dependence on Malacañang or central government.”
Alferez said the country is not lacking in funds, and that the problem lies in its priorities.
“The national budget as currently designed is completely out of step with the new climate change reality. We can be both responsive and strategic. Climate change is not just about episodic disasters. We have already seen with Yolanda the impact of the rising sea levels, giving way to higher storm surges. But dire impacts are already hitting the country throughout the year, often under the radar of media,” he clarified.
Almost half of adaptation-related funds extended to the Philippines last 2010-2011 were used for reconstruction and rehabilitation, according to a recently-released adaptation finance report.
Department of Budget and Management Secretary Florencio Abad announced the availability of funds yesterday, saying, “As of end-October, the Presidents Social Fund has a balance of P6.4 billion, while P16.6 billion in government savings are still available. We can readily tap these fund sources, in addition to the P1.74 billion in Quick Relief Funds (QRFs) that are now being mobilized to facilitate the delivery of immediate aid to all typhoon victims. Furthermore, we also have P1.28 billion in Calamity Funds and another P824 million in Contingency Funds at our disposal.”
The legislature and the Palace showed strategic wisdom in passing and enacting in 2012 Republic Act 10174, also known as the People’s Survival Fund, according to Alferez. The Fund is the country’s first climate resilience funding mechanism dedicated to supporting adaptive action by localities. It was not included, however, in the list of programmed funds under the General Appropriations Act proposal for 2014 and thus remains without funds.
The People’s Survival Fund law requires the maintenance of no less than one billion pesos that can be accessed by local governments and communities. It can receive foreign contributions as well. The Fund Board is chaired by Department of Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima.
The Senate and House of Representatives are expected to meet starting November 18, when Congress
resumes session, to form the bicameral conference committee for next years proposed General Appropriations Act (GAA). The Senate has proposed the inclusion of a rehabilitation fund worth P10 billion in the 2014 GAA, while House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte has publicly pegged the potential fund to P10-20 million.
Editor’s Note: iCSC is a member of Aksyon Klima Pilipinias, a network of 40 civil society organizations in the Philippines working on climate action in
the international, national, and local levels.