Meeting with Palace on climate change a go, but PNoy not attending

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews/12 November) – Less than two months before the 2010 Climate Change Summit in Cancun, Mexico, Malacanang has finally acceded to the request of civil society groups for a meeting to define the administration’s climate change agenda.

But Aksyon Klima, the alliance calling for clear policies regarding climate change was unhappy that President Benigno S. Aquino III, Chair of the Climate Change Commission, has simply designated Budget Secretary Florencio Abad and former congressman Dr. Nereus Acosta to attend the meeting on Nov. 17, in Manila.

Acosta, a losing senatorial candidate in the May 10, 2010 elections, is being groomed to be the next environment secretary once the ban on the appointments of losing candidates to government posts lapses.

The Nov. 17 meeting is dubbed “Agenda Klima: Forging the National Climate Change Agenda for the Aquino Administration.”

Republic Act 9729 or the Climate Change Act of 2009 designates the President as the Chairperson of the CCC.

Commissioner Lucille Sering said that the intent of the law in having the President as head of the Commission is to make the government highly accountable [for climate change issues].

“It would have been better to have a direct dialogue with the Chair of the CCC and I hope that this will still be forthcoming,” said Roy Cabonegro, Secretary General of the Partido Kalikasan Institute (PKI).

Aside from the President, the Commission has three members. The current commissioners are Sering, Naredev Sano and former senator and former climate czar of the Arroyo administration Heherson Alvarez, who serves as the vice chair.

Sering is a former undersecretary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and Sano is a former climate campaigner of the World Wildlife Fund.

Aquino has yet to convene an en banc meeting of the Commission.

Alvarez on the other hand is being accused of doing “unilateral” actions in the Commission. Both the Senate and the House of Representatives have investigated the alleged lack of collegiality in the operations of the commission.

Climate campaigners are starting to get worried over the fractiousness in the Commission especially since the country is currently forming its delegation to the Cancun Summit in December this year.

The 2010 Human Development Index report of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) released early this month recognizes that climate change is the biggest development issue that might have undermined improvements in economies, education and health in the last three decades.

The Philippines which lies in between the Pacific Ocean and the South China Sea is considered a highly vulnerable country in terms of climate change impacts. More frequent and more severe extreme weather events will hit the country as a result of climate change.

The devastation brought about by typhoons Ondoy and Pepeng last year to crops, property and infrastructure was estimated to be around P207 billion. This is more than 200 percent bigger compared to the direct damage of typhoons in the last two decades which cost over P92 billion. Typhoon Juan which hit the country last year wrought a damage of almost P12 billion, largely hitting rice production.

Meanwhile, in Surigao City on Nov. 18, Depensa!, a climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction campaign, will be launched by Oxfam and the Institute for Climate and Sustainable Cities (iCSC) together with community groups and local government units in the Caraga and Southwestern Mindanao regions which have been implementing adaptation projects.

The Depensa! campaign aims to create high community awareness and action on the need for climate change adaptation and to call on government to take the lead in protecting public welfare and advancing real sustainable development in a world wracked by a changing climate.

“Rolling out a campaign calling for the defense of livelihoods and ecosystems is urgent,” said iCSC’s director Red Constantino.

“In Mindanao, the impacts of climate change are increasingly felt from extreme weather events that cause floods or severe drought, especially in the areas of Agusan Sur, Agusan Norte, and Sultan Kudarat, adversely affecting agricultural production and settlements. On the other hand, coastal communities in Surigao Sur are in danger of rising sea and tidal levels,” according to Marie Madamba-Nunez of Oxfam.

The Depensa! campaign supports bills filed in the Senate and House of Representatives seeking to establish a People’s Survival Fund (PSF).

The PSF intends to finance adaptation programs and projects of local governments and communities. By crafting adaptation plans based on climate vulnerability, the PSF incentivizes early local adaptation action.

“The PSF is critical to communities, who should not have to wait for the occurrence of climate change-induced calamities before they are able to access funds to cope with anticipated climatic impacts. Neither should they have to tap budgets for essential social services in order to fund adaptation initiatives,” said Lourd de Veyra of Dakila, an artists’ collective supporting the Depensa! campaign.

“We expect the Depensa! campaign to contribute key lessons and opportunities during this critical time, when government is undertaking discussions about the country’s budget and its medium-term development plan,” Constantino said.

Depensa! will be launched at the Philippine Gateway Hotel in Surigao City. Local government, community representatives and civil society groups largely coming from Mindanao, and lawmakers will be attending the meeting, including representatives of the Executive such as the CCC. (BenCyrus G. Ellorin/MindaNews)