MANILA (AlertNet) – Faced with worsening extreme weather and studies indicating it is likely to be highly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, the government of the Philippines intends to implement a series of laws in 2013 aimed at reducing disaster risk, improving clean energy production and adapting to climate shifts.
Climate change is now a top priority for the country of 95 million, and many laws have been passed but this year will be one of implementation, Lucille Sering, secretary of the Climate Change Commission, told AlertNet.
She said the government began its shift from reactionary policies to a more proactive stance with the creation of the Climate Change Act of 2009, which produced the country’s climate commission as well as the Philippine Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act of 2010.
Last year, President Benigno Aquino III signed a law creating the 1 billion peso ($24.5 million) Peoples’ Survival Fund (PSF), which is expected to receive funding by 2014. The fund aims to implement local climate change action plans to make communities more resilient to climate-induced disasters.
Drawing in private as well as public support for the fund will be key, she said.
“This year, a campaign with the private sector will be launched to involve them more on climate change issues including support for the PSF,” Sering said. “Support from donors will also be solicited and there are some who have expressed interest already. The main objective is to improve the capacity of (local governments) to address climate change.”
In the 2013 national budget, Sering said the government has already set aside 12 billion pesos ($295 million) for enhancing geohazard maps to include multiple hazards, early warning systems and other infrastructures to improve capacity to reduce risks
Other programs being implemented in 2013 include vulnerability assessment of various sectors, especially agriculture; the scaling-up the nation’s “eco-town framework” on building sustainable towns; and a youth advocacy campaign called the “Greeneration”.
The government also is pushing for a land-use bill that would incorporate climate change and disaster risk reduction issues in land use decision making, Sering said.
At the same time, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources is putting together programs to boost reforestation and improve air quality in both urban and rural areas. For 2013, the target of the National Greening program is to plant trees on 300,000 hectares, with an aim to boosting its reforestation target to 1.5 million hectares by 2016.
Other planned measures including promotion of clean, energy-efficient fuels and strengthening of solid waste management.
POLITICAL LEADERSHIP KEY
According to Elpidio Peria, convenor of the climate change advocacy network Aksyon Klima, the proof of the country’s commitment to making climate change action a priority should be money. He has urged the government to put more than a billion pesos ($24.5 million) into the People’s Survival Fund.
“Since there are already sufficient policy measures in place, it is just right that they are correctly implemented,” Peria told AlertNet.
He urged Aquino personally to take an active stance on climate issues this year.
“In order to make the (People’s Survival Fund), disaster risk reduction and other climate change measures work, government agencies should feel that the Philippine President is personally interested in climate change concerns. Perhaps he should give his personal attention on this issue, starting by convening the meetings of the Climate Change Commission,” Peria said. “After all, he is the chair of the CCC.”
“If the government agencies see him getting personally interested in climate change issues, it can be expected that government agencies will put a notch higher their level of implementation of these policies, which are already in place,” he said.
That observation was echoed by Renato Redentor Constantino, executive director of the Institute of Climate and Sustainable Cities. He said the allocation and use of public money to address climate change would be a critical indicator of the government’s priorities.
“The Aquino administration has done quite well in crafting a more climate change sensitive national budget,” Constantino said. But “the executive has to scale up its efforts, given the magnitude of the climate change threat, which is faced largely by those in the frontline of the crisis, local governments and communities,” he said.
Getting out good information and collaboration between government and civil society will be key to success of the efforts, Constantino said.
“Government should not have to carry out this agenda on its own. Partnership is everything,” he said.
Imelda Albano is a reporter based in Manila.