Alvarez censured for supporting SoKor's bid to host 2012 Climate Change Summit

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews/17 November) – A ranking foreign affairs official  has rebuked Climate Change Commission vice chairperson Heherson Alvarez for committing the country’s support to South Korea’s bid to host the 2012 Climate Change Summit.

In a letter dated Nov. 12, 2010 a copy of which was obtained by MindaNews, Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Erlinda F. Basilio reminded Alvarez that as early as May19, 2010, the country has already declared its support to Qatar’s bid to host the event.

Basilio told Alvarez the Philippines is supporting the bid of Qatar since the two countries share similar positions on climate change, the Philippines being a member of the Group of 77 and China.

The official hinted Alvarez’s move might become a diplomatic faux pas.

She said the political decision [to support Qatar] is a form of reciprocity as the country has “consistently supported the Philippines’ OIC observer bid, including at the 37th Council of Foreign Ministers Meeting on May 18-20, 2010 in Dushanbe, Tajikistan.”

The OIC or Organization of Islamic Countries is an important player in the Mindanao peace process.

MindaNews also obtained a copy of the letter by Alvarez dated July 12, 2010 to Ambassador to the Philippines Lee Hye-Min saying the Climate Change Commission is supporting the bid of South Korea for the 2012 climate summit.

In his letter, Alvarez told the Korean Ambassador that “the Climate Change Commission supports this initiative for reasons of proximity to the Philippines, the familiarity of your government on the UNFCC process, and the capacity of your country to host this event.”

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) hosts the annual climate summit or Conference of Parties (COP). This year, in December, the COP 16 or Climate Change Summit will be held in Cancun, Mexico.

Red Constantino, director of the Institute for Climate and Sustainable Cities (iCSC) meanwhile said that Alvarez’s unilateral action “is just so fundamentally wrong and so outrageous on so many levels – for the nth time.”

“How long can Malacañang tolerate the situation? The country is in a hemorrhagic situation, but instead of blood the government is shedding political credibility at a dangerous rate,” he said.

The Climate Change Act of 2009 which created the Commission designates the President as the chairperson of the Climate Change Commission. Aside from Alvarez, the Commission has two other members, lawyer Lucille Sering, a former environment undersecretary, and Naderev Sano, a former climate campaigner at the World Wildlife Fund.

Constantino said the commitment given to South Korea was the “third major usurpation of authority” by Alvarez.

As member of the Philippine delegation to the 2009 Climate Change Summit in Copenhagen, Denmark, Alvarez, reportedly without consulting then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo signed the controversial Copenhagen Climate Deal. The Philippines formally withdrew its support to the deal in February 2010.

In September this year, Alvarez, without authority by the President and consultation with the other members of the Commission, signed a Memorandum of Agreement with the Land Bank of the Philippines designating the bank as the National Implementing Entity of the country with respect to the UN’s climate change Adaptation Fund.

Cagayan de Oro 2nd District Rep. Rufus Rodriguez and Abante Mindanao party-list Rep. Maximo Rodriguez have filed a resolution in the House of Representatives to investigate the alleged lack of collegiality in the Climate Change Commission.

In the run-up of the formation of the Philippine delegation to the Cancun summit next month and amid fears over the impacts of a worsening climate change, Malacanang officials and climate change advocacy groups under Aksyon Klima will meet today (Nov. 17) at Traders Hotel.

“President Aquino must be given a free hand in choosing the vice chair of the Commission. During this period of worsening climate change impacts, vulnerable communities deserve, expect and require decisive leadership exercised at the national level,” said Constantino.

Aksyon Klima will meet with Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, Dr. Neric Acosta and members of the Climate Change Commission.

“Aksyon Klima Pilipinas is elated at the opportunity to exchange views and, potentially, craft common goals with the Aquino administration, particularly on issues related to adaptation, finance and low carbon development,” the coalition said in a statement.

On November 18, 2010, climate campaigners will launch the climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction campaign dubbed “Depensa!” in Surigao City. (BenCyrus G. Ellorin/MindaNews)