November 22, 2010 – A nonprofit group actively working with government to shape fair climate change and sustainable development policies in the Philippines praised President Benigno Aquino III for replacing former Sen. Heherson Alvarez as vice chairman of the Climate Change Commission (CCC).
Lawyer Mary Ann Lucille Sering, former undersecretary of the environment department, took her oath Monday afternoon as the new CCC vice chairperson, in ceremonies administered by the President in Malacañang.
“We applaud the President for his quick action even as we challenge the (Commission’s) new leadership to decisively arrest the governance chaos that has for far too long plagued the administration of climate finance, which enters the country’s coffers from abroad,” said Red Constantino, director of the Institute for Climate and Sustainable Cities (iCSC).
“It is only proper that PNoy exercises a free hand in choosing his alter ego in the CCC, which he heads as the chairperson,” Constantino said.
iCSC, which works on sustainable energy solutions and fair climate policy issues, leads the campaign to establish direct-access driven, just, long-term adaptation finance for the country’s most vulnerable communities.
The group is also the proponent of the pioneering Climate-Friendly Cities (CFC) initiative that integrates waste management, energy generation and sustainable transport programs for sustainable, climate-resilient city and community development.
The popular electric jeepneys, or eJeepneys that ply Makati and other cities, is a central part of the CFC initiative.
Alvarez had been widely criticized by the climate change groups for “usurping authority’ and acting “unilaterally” on climate change issues.
Budget Secretary Florencio Abad vowed on Nov. 17 to ask the President to step into the long-simmering leadership crisis at the CCC.
GMANews.TV tried contacting Alvarez for his reaction to no avail.
With a new vice chairperson appointed to the CCC, Constantino said that climate change groups have more hope that their issues will be prioritized in the Aquino administration’s planning and budgetary processes.
“Kailangan ng bayan ng depensa laban sa climate change (the country needs a defense against climate change), and with the changes in the Commission, the Aquino government has taken a major step forward,” Constantino said.
“Commissioner Sering brings with her a formidable expertise in management and a nuanced understanding of climate negotiations, which will be critical during the next round of talks in Cancun, Mexico this December,” the iCSC director said.
“We also hope she will champion the People’s Survival Fund (PSF) bill which was filed by Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile and which we hope will be certified by PNoy as urgent legislation,” he said.
HB 3528 or the PSF bill aims to establish a fund dedicated to vulnerable local governments and communities struggling to adapt to the rapidly changing climate.”
The PSF is a ‘rewards’ fun: vulnerable localities that craft climate change adaptation projects or plans can access the PSF. The PSF thus incentivizes local climate action.”
The funds that make up the PSF can come from sources such as portions from Motor Vehicle User’s Charge (road tax), cash dividends from all government-owned and controlled operations, credits earned under the Clean Development Mechanism, and contributions from other private, public, foreign, and local sources.
He also said his group congratulates the government for recognizing that it cannot and should not confront the climate crisis on its own.
“The pursuit of low carbon development and the channeling of finance to vulnerable communities requires the critical collaboration of all Filipinos.”
“We hope the new Commission will engage civil society organizations more closely and meaningfully and that there will be more coherence in the body’s handling of climate finance.
Earlier, Constantino had taken Alvarez to task for not “consult(ing) anyone, including the President, his fellow CCC commissioners and the other agencies.”
Criticisms reached a peak when a mix-up occurred in the official Philippine choice of which nation to endorse to host the 2012 Global Climate Change Summit.
The diplomatic faux pas arose when Alvarez endorsed South Korea as the host of the 2012 summit, when the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) had already endorsed Qatar months earlier.
The 2012 summit on climate change is the 18th annual meeting of nations who have signed the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
The UNFCCC, an international environmental treaty drafted at the 1992 UN Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, aims to reduce greenhouse gases in the atmosphere to levels that would prevent climate change.
Since 1992, nations that have signed the treaty have met annually to discuss the progress of the goals.
South Korea and Qatar have both expressed interest in hosting COP-18.
Alvarez had announced that CCC was inclined to support South Korea, but the DFA had already committed the country’s support for Qatar.
“Alvarez is acting as if he is the Commission,” Constantino said. “This is wrong.”
“I think he has usurped the authority of the commission and the president for the last time,” he added.
Alvarez, who was a former secretary of the agrarian reform and environment departments, as well as Isabela representative and senator, has been widely criticized for allegedly taking over the CCC’s chairmanship and making important decisions without consultations.
Alvarez was appointed by former Pres. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo as Secretary of the CCC, acting as the Vice Chair to the President and Executive Director of the climate change office on Dec. 1, 2009.
The Climate Change Act of 2009 which created the Climate Change Commission designates the President as the chairperson.
Aside from Sering and Alvarez, the other commission members are Naderev “Yeb” Sano, a former climate campaigner at the World Wildlife Fund.
Earlier, Alvarez defended his support of Korea, saying “climate change is a daunting survival issue. For its environment dimension, we expressed our choice of Korea.”
“But the matter is yet to be worked out and decided in Cancun,” he added.
“This is an issue of engaging and overarching national interest,” he noted. “The determination of where the national interest lies in this issue will always be the prerogative of the Chief Executive, and we will always abide by that determination,” he said. – DM, GMANews.TV
Photo of Commissioner Sering addressing the participants of the EV Summit by Taweng Attunaga/iCSC