Press Release
July 22, 2010

Message of the Hon. Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile
on his Proposed National Policy and Action Plan
on Climate Change

Typhoon "Basyang" was the second typhoon to hit us this year. There will be more to come. Her path covered for the most part thickly populated and highly developed areas of the country. While the magnitude of the destruction inflicted on us by Basyang remains tentative, I presume the amount of the damage is substantial. Lives were lost, the destruction of private and public structures, injury to the livelihood of the people, their health and well-being, and the effects on business and economic activities of calamities such as this have often set us back in our effort to inch our way to development.

Although typhoons are not strange to us for we have them every year, the occurrences of these weather disturbances have seen a dramatic change in terms of their strength, aberrant behavior and destructive effects, both domestically and globally. They have caused thousands of lives, destroyed homes and paralyzed public services and utilities - power, communication, and transportation systems. The increasingly inundating torrential rains flood our cities, towns, and farmlands. These, among others calamities, are the ones that bring huge annual losses to the nation and inflict incalculable miseries to our people, especially the poor.

Experts tell us that strong typhoons, severe droughts, and rising sea levels are products of a radically changed climate pattern in our planet. They also say that such changed climate pattern results from the rising heat of the earth, which in turn is the effect of incessant and heavy emission of greenhouse gases (GHG) into the atmosphere. Such incessant and heavy emissions are largely from highly developed countries. Experts warn that unless something is done to reverse it, the growing high temperature of the earth will put humanity at great and irreversible risk.

So serious has the problem become that the United Nations had taken note of it and adopted certain initiatives that were designed to develop and implement suitable responses to what now looms as an inevitable global crisis. In fact, many view climate change as a problem that the world can no longer ignore, for it involves no less than the survival of man on earth.

The Philippines, like the United Nations, has recognized the importance and urgency of climate change. Congress, almost a year ago, passed Republic Act No. 9729, now known as the "Climate Change Act of 2009."

That law created a Commission whose chairman is the President of the Republic, no less. That indicates to all of us how serious the problem of climate change has become. Congress intended the Commission to serve as "the sole policy-making body of the government" on climate change. It also tasked the Commission "to coordinate, monitor and evaluate the programs and action plans of the government" on climate change. Congress also gave the power to the Commission, along with the Department of Foreign Affairs, to "represent the Philippines in climate change negotiation." Congress directed the Commission to "meet once every three (3) months, or as often as may be deemed necessary by the Chairperson.

I was informed that the Commission met only once or twice since its formation. Worse, I understand that the collegial nature of the Commission has been, by and large, laid aside. It was said that decisions that ought to have been done by the Commission as a collegial body was done and implemented by the Vice Chairperson alone. If such had been the case, then that constitutes a serious breach of delegated power from Congress. A delegated power cannot be further delegated unless Congress so allows. This must be looked into in order to prevent the unwarranted exercise of unauthorized authority.

There is a need to review Republic Act No. 9729. That law was not well crafted. Its provisions are broad and vague. The policies it contains are not well defined and canalized. There is a total lack of clarity even in the definitions of technical terms used in that law. The powers granted to the Commission tend to overflow and intrude into the domain of other government agencies.

The offered solution in the law to the problem of climate change is, to me, inadequate. Republic Act No. 9729 has a bias in favor of mitigation, rather than of adaptation in dealing with the problem of climate change. It seems to me that our response to climate change under Republic Act No. 9729 is limited to planting trees and waste management, though that may not have been the intent.

I think we should be more innovative than that. We must use public finance as our vital tool to accomplish our adaptation and mitigation measures if we truly care to provide adequate protection for our people.

For that purpose, there is an urgent need for us to establish a corruption-proof and genuine National Implementing Entity and a National Survival Fund that are both compliant with the fiduciary standards of the Adaptation Board of the United Nations. If we do that, then we can tap the UN Adaptation Fund and similar funds that are free from financially onerous conditions.

The National Implementing Entity and the National Survival Fund should be governed and managed by well-chosen, reputable, honest, and capable trustees. The National Survival Fund must serve as the only channel for all Official Development Assistance (ODA) intended for adaptation programs for climate change. The National Survival Fund will tap domestic sources that we can identify and should be the only channel to access the UN Adaptation Fund and other similar international funds, which are not tied to disadvantageous conditions.

Towards correcting these flaws, I have made it a vital part of my legislative agenda to propose the necessary remedial legislation and to actively and assiduously see to it that Congress acts to immediately enact and pass this into law. As you well know, I have been an advocate for the protection of our consumers, not only in the area of electricity but also in general, for the eradication of monopolies and business practices in restraint of trade that compromise our business environment to the ultimate loss of the consuming public.

I believe that this particular advocacy is a fitting completion to my advocacy to protect our people. Their survival and the survival of our people, the survival of all the more than 7,000 islands of the Philippines from imminent danger of destruction deserves no less than a firm commitment from the leaders.

We must stop the current practice of seeking concessional loans even as they come with very low interest rates from developed economies for our adaptation and mitigation measures. We must also avoid foreign grants that impose conditions for the same purposes. If it becomes necessary for us to borrow money from foreign lenders, we must see to it that project loans are not blended with climate-related program loans. Needless to say, we must ensure that our national annual budget reflects climate change as one among our national priorities.

In the international arena, we must consistently maintain our position that under-developed and developing countries such as the Philippines are injured parties in the wanton disregard of the environment by highly industrialized nations. We have suffered and still stand to suffer the worst effects of such irresponsible acts in the name of development. Yet we, due to our economic difficulties are the most vulnerable and the least equipped and capable to cope with and adapt to the ill-effects of climate change. I view it, thus, as a grave injustice for us to have to pay for the cost of the destruction brought about by the effects of global warming.

This is not to say that we do not have our own share in bearing the responsibility of really caring for and protecting our environment and natural resources. It is our duty to God, to the nation and to the world to contribute to the earth's protection. In this respect, we must admit that we have, to a certain extent, been negligent.

I laud the efforts of private non-government groups and individual environmental advocates who have sounded the alarm and called attention to this serious concern. But we must bring the issue of adaptation to climate change to a much-higher level�that of tapping our financial resources and available international funding and utilizing the same diligently, devotedly, wisely and purposively towards climate change adaptation.

Our domestic policies must coincide with our international positions on climate change. In climate treaty negotiations, we must assume a strong and determined stand and exact responsibility from others who caused us damage and require them to pay for the burden and injury they inflicted on us.

The tremendous damage we suffer due to the effects of climate change is not our own doing. They arise from acts done by developed and industrialized countries. The developed countries profited and prospered from those acts. Therefore, they must answer for the damage and injury inflicted on developing countries and their people. We are the victims. Why should we pay back moneys and assistance that they extend to us for adaptation and mitigation measures? Instead of loans and charitable grants, developed countries must pay actual compensation to developing countries.

This is a policy position that I strongly advocate, and I appeal to our national government to support it. I respectfully urge President Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III to convene the Climate Change Commission and run it as a collegial body. I also respectfully suggest to His Excellency to make a strong policy statement on climate change in his forthcoming SONA as a signal to the entire nation and to the world that his regime is committed and determined to address the crisis of climate change in our country by doing our own share in systematically eradicating practices that are injurious to the environment.

More importantly, His Excellency must send a strong and unequivocal message that we, as a nation, remain steadfast in our position that those who are responsible for the global effects of climate change must be obliged to bear the burden of helping poor nations to adapt to climate change and cushion the people from its destructive and injurious effects.

News Latest News Feed