Joint statement of the Climate Change Network for Community-Based Initiatives (CCNCI) and Center for Environmental Concerns-Philippines (CEC) delivered at the “Addressing Poverty and Inequality Towards Agenda 2030” a Policy Forum organized by the Council for People’s Development and Governance (CPDG) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) held on August 23, 2019.
The Philippines, given its geopgraphy and topography, is naturally prone to natural disasters. It consistently ranks high in the list of countries with the highest weather-related losses (Global Risk Index 1998-2017, Germanwatch) and even gained the unenviable top spot for the country with the highest risk of climate change hazards (Global Peace Index 2019, Institute for Economics and Peace).
Climate change cuts across issues and sectors but the most vulnerable are the poor. They are those dependent on climate-sensitive industries like farming and fishing. They live in disaster-prone areas like coastal and urban poor communities. They are threatened with displacement to give way to so-called development projects like megadams and reclamation, and extractive industries like mining and logging. They have limited access to government services like education, health care and social welfare. Climate change exacerbates their already dire situation and poverty amplifies their vulnerability to climate change.
The Philippines has committed to work towards attaining the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) on combating climate change and its impacts. It also pledged to a nationally determined contribution (NDC) of 70% below BAU target reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 under the Paris Agreement.
The Philippines also enacted the Climate Change Act of 2009 or RA 9729 to establish the Climate Change Commission (CCC) which was amended in 2011 to create the People Survival Fund (PSF) or RA 10174. The CCC drafted the National Framework Strategy on Climate Change (NFSCC) 2010-2022 which was translated into the National Climate Change Action Plan (NCCAP) 2011-2028.
The Climate Change Act
Despite its ambitious mandate to ensure that climate change adaptation and mitigation strategies are embodied in government programs, the functions of the Climate Change Commission are limited to policy recommendation and coordination, evaluation, and monitoring of government programs related to climate change. It has no control over laws, policies and programs of other government agencies that heighten people’s vulnerabilities which resulted in disjointed government policies (i.e. Mining Act of 1995, Manila Bay reclamation, Build Build Build, land and water use conversion, expansion of monocrop plantations, among others). But even this limited function of the CCC is threatened by the impending passing of the Department of Disaster Resiliency (DDR) Bill wherein the CCC will be reduced to an office under this Department.
Another mechanism is the People’s Survival Fund (PSF) created to support community-based climate change adaptation strategies but the requirements were highly technical and hard to fulfill by LGUs and peoples organizations. Many of the approved projects were institutional support for schools and infrastructures that do not directly benefit marginalized sectors and communities.
The NFSCC and the NCCAP
The NFSCC and NCCAP tries to comprehensively address climate change but several laws, policies and programs of the government conflict with achieving climate change adaptation, mitigation and resilience.
The NCCAP identified 7 priorities to attaining climate resiliency:
- Food security – however, without laws on genuine agrarian reform and fisheries and aquatic reform, food security is almost impossible to achieve. On the other hand, the rice tarrification law is killing the Philippines’ rice industry.
- Water sufficiency – this cannot be achieved when water is controlled by the private sector.
- Ecological and environmental stability – this is impossible with the continuous plunder of resources (mining, logging, etc) and the liberalized policies on environmental governance.
- Human Security – the people have limited access to social services and disaster response but climate change is more than weather-related disasters
- Climate-friendly industries and services – unfortunately, this is still corporate sector-led and profit-oriented, innovations are offered but not accessible to communities
- Sustainable energy – the country is still reliant on coal-fired powerplants with 17 existing and 24 new powerplants on the way
- Knowledge and capacity development – there is an attempt to mainstream climate change education but lacks resources and facilities to implement
At .39 %, the Philippines has minimal contribution to the global GHG emissions (2015) yet the government committed to a 70 % NDC target reduction while the countries who are most responsible for climate change refused to change their business as usual pathway. We have also acknowledged the common but differentiated responsibilities (CBDR) principles in the agreements we have signed. Instead of pledging an unrealistically high NDC which may affect the country’s development, the Philippines must assert that the protection and conservation of its resources – like its forests, marine and aquatic resources – will be a sigificant contribution to climate change mitigation.
Human Rights and Climate Justice
Thus, it is imperative to call for climate justice. We call on the Philippine government and its relevant agencies to stand for justice and call for accountability from the years of historical emissions of developed countries. The Philippines, which is on the receiving end of the climate crisis, should go back to the negotiations and put forward the genuine calls of the Filipino people for resiliency and just development. It is also high time to review environmental policies in the country and heed the calls of communities with regards to large-scale destructive projects.
Climate justice also includes the call for the defense of human rights of environmental defenders and development workers in the ground resisting destructive projects and protecting the natural resources for future generations. The 2018 Global Witness Report states that the Philippines with 30 killed defenders is now the deadliest country in the world for environmental defenders. We demand the government to allow international investigations on the situation and uphold the rights of our environmental defenders and development workers.