Alvarez justifies support to Korea in 2012 climate summit

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY  (MindaNews/21 November) — Former Senator Heherson Alvarez, vice chair of the Climate Change Commission  justified his actions supporting the bid of Korea in the 2012 Climate Change Summit despite being told by the Dept. of Foreign Affairs that the country had already supported the bid of Qatar for the important global meeting in May 2012.

In a press statement Alvarez said “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. This is an issue of engaging and over-arching national interest. 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.

Climate Change Commissioner Naderev Sano however asked “what ‘we’ is Alvarez talking about? He never consulted us about this issue nor did he consult the Commission as a collegial body about his other actions.”

An environment and Climate thinktank said Alvarez is missing the point. “The issue here is the collegiality as mandated by law in the climate change commission against the unilateral actions and usurpation of authority of Alvarez, ” said Red Constantino, director of the Institute for Climate and Sustainable Cities (iCSC).

He added that President Benigno Simeon Aquino III  should exercise a free hand in selecting the vice chair of the Commission and the head of the Philippine delegation to the 2011 Climate Change Summit in Cancun, Mexico next month.

“In early July, the Korean Embassy in Manila made representation before the Commission on their interest to host COP-18 and sought our support. At that time, we did not have any information on the stand of the DFA, nor knowledge of the intention of Qatar to host COP-18. We were uninformed of the DFA’s prior commitment to Qatar,” Alvarez told MindaNews.

He said he was surprised to receive a letter from the DFA on November 17 informing him that the DFA had already endorsed Qatar as host of COP-18 on May 19.

“As the primary agency concerned with climate change issues, we expressed support for the Republic of Korea based solely on its laudable climate initiatives like the globally-prominent green growth plan,” Alvarez said.

A letter dated Nov. 12, 2010 signed by Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Erlinda Basilio said the support to the bid of Qatar for the 2012 Climate Change Summit is a political decision.

MindaNews obtained a copy of a letter dated July 12, 2010 from Alvarez to the Korean Ambassador to the Philippines Lee Hye-Min expressing the Commission’s support to the bid of Korea to host the 2012 Climate Change Meeting.

Basilio said that as a member of the Group of 77 countries and China, China “shares more similar position on climate change with the Philippines.”

She added that the country’s position supporting Qatar also weighed in Qatar’s consistent support to the bid of the Philippines to have Observer status in the Organization of Islamic Countries (OIC).

In a meeting with Malacanang officials, members of the Climate Change Commission and the civil society coalition Aksyon Klima on November 17 in Manila, Budget Secretary Florencio Abad said he will bring to the President’s attention the leadership issue in the Climate Change Commission

Last month in the House of Representatives, Cagayan de Oro Representative Rufus Rodriguez and Abante Mindanao Party List Rep. Maximo Rodriguez Jr., filed a resolution asking Congress to exercise its oversight powers over the Climate Change Commission over issues of unilateral action and lack of collegiality in the commission.

The Climate Change Act of 2009 designates the President of the Republic as the Chairperson of the Commission. It shall have three other members, a vice chair and two commissioners. Aside from Pres. Aquino and Alvarez, the two other commissioners are Sano, a former climate campaigner from the World Wildlife Fund and former Environment and Natural Resources Undersecretary Lucille Sering, who hails from Mindanao.

Sering and Alvarez reportedly had a spat in the Malacanang-called meeting on Nov. 17 where the former confronted Alvarez about his decisions bringing the name of the Commission without consulting the other members. (BenCyrus G. Ellorin/MindaNews)