‘Depensa’ bill passes first reading

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews/17 Feb) – House Bill 3528, which seeks to establish a financing mechanism for climate change adaptation, passed first reading after the Committee on Ecology of the House of Representatives saw the need for early the passage of the bill.

Rep. Dan Fernandez (Laguna), chair of the Committee on Ecology, expressed his support to the bill even before Rep. Erin Tanada (Quezon province) was to deliver his sponsorship speech.

HB 3528, otherwise known as “Depensa” bill, will establish a People’s Survival Fund for climate change adaptation projects. It seeks to strengthen the Climate Change Act of 2009, which many experts say is short on financing.

The passage of the law will further boost the effectivity of the Disaster Risk Reduction Management Act of 2010 as it will augment the mandated calamity fund in the local government units.

Climate change adaptation refers to activities and projects that would increase disaster risk resiliency of vulnerable communities.

Of the six Cagayan de Oro-based members of the House of Representatives, five have signified their support to the bill – Representatives Rufus B. Rodriguez (2nd Dist., CDO), Yevgeny “Bambi|” Emano (1st Dist., MisOr), Peter Unabia (2nd Dist., MisOr), Maximo B. Rodriguez (Abante Mindanao party list) and Isidro Q. Lico (Ating Koop party list).

Rep. Benjo Benaldo (1st Dist., CDO) has been silent on the matter. MindaNews has been trying to get his views on the issue but has not gotten a reply.

The city was hit by a destructive series of floods in 2009 that resulted in the displacement of more than 30,000 people when above-average rains hit the city in January 2009.

Red Constantino, of the Institute for Climate and Sustainable Cities who spoke in the hearing in behalf of Aksyon Klima, said that the Depensa law will cure the deficiency of the Climate Change Act (RA 9279) “which has dismal budget allocation for the Climate Change Commission.”

After completing the first reading in the Committee on Ecology, the bill was passed on to a Technical Working Group for review and will then be submitted for second reading.

Extreme weather events like above-normal rainfall due to the La Niña phenomenon has claimed at least 50 lives so far this year and displaced hundreds of thousands, especially in the eastern seaboard of Mindanao traversing the Davao provinces to the Caraga region in Northeastern Mindanao.

Last year, the dry spell of El Niño caused destructive droughts that damaged crops. (BenCyrus G. Ellorin / MindaNews)