Climate activists slam the Aquino government for paying lip service to implementing effective climate change adaptation strategies, well in fact, the government has failed to take adequate steps in preparing the country, even after the experiences from Pepeng and Ondoy.
The groups, headed by Philippine Climate Watch Alliance (PCWA) were referring to the claims of the Philippine government that it has taken positive steps in addressing the climate change vulnerability of the country as it hosted an international meeting on climate change adaptation.
The meeting was organized by the Secretariat of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and hosted by the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR). It was attended by representatives from all over the world to review the outcomes of the UN-sponsored work programme on the impacts, vulnerability and adaptation to climate change
According to PCWA, if the government is indeed serious in climate change adaptation then it needs to assert a position that serves the interest of the country and act on putting a stop on policies and projects that aggravate the vulnerability of the country.
“It is ironic how our government boasts of ‘being a leader in proactively addressing’ the impacts of climate change yet no serious effort has been seen to protect the communities and conserve our environment. What the government, especially the DENR can boast of is pushing for destructive projects and practices such as large-scale mining, corporate logging and pollutive sources of energy in the country,” said Meggie Nolasco, spokeperson of PCWA.
Continued environmental destruction
The groups have long clamored for the government to stop giving out permits to foreign corporations to mine, log and pollute in the country as these practices have proven to be destructive to the environment, cause deeper poverty and increase the vulnerability of communities to disaster.
“Large scale mining in the country has caused massive landslides, pollution and destruction in the areas the projects are located and makes communities more vulnerable to climate change. If the government would prioritize the safety of the people rather than satisfy the profit-driven foreign corporations, then it would think twice before giving out permits. However, this is not the case, as of July 2010, land covered by mining permits have reached around 1 million hectares,” said Clemente Bautista of Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment.
There has also been an continuous increase in the production, consumption and importation of coal in the country with 2008 showing the highest increase.
Based on 2005 data, 53% of the countryʼs energy sources come from fossil fuels and coal which have been identified as the major source of global carbon emission and global warming, accounting for 19% of total emissions.
These statistics are a result of the current energy framework stated in The Philippine Exploration Plan (PEP) covering the period from 1999 to 2008 that stresses the development of hydro and coal-based power plants and the rehabilitation of old hydropower plants, to the point of even sourcing foreign loans for these is still being implemented.
“This increasing dependence on foreign technologies and fuel-based energy, despite the country’s rich renewable energy resource is contrary to the worldwide trend in which governments are reducing investment in these dirty technologies because of their negative environmental and social effects,” Bautista said.
According to the group, another indicator of the country’s poor climate change adaptive capacity is the worsening poverty, as reflected in the recently released progress report of the country’s Millenium Development Goals (MDG) report.
“One important step in increasing the adaptability of people is to increase their economic and political capacities. If a person cannot even provide for its basic needs, then it is impossible for that person to be prepared and resilient once disaster strikes. this can be seen by the thousands of victims of Ondoy and Pepeng who even after a year have not recovered their livelihoods and homes,” said Bautista.
According to the MDG report, the incidence of poverty in the country has risen with 32.9% of the population living below the poverty threshold in 2006, which means that 27.6 million Filipinos are living in less than P41.26 a day.
“Another reason why so many people have still to bounce back from the disasters is because the government has failed to spend the billions of fund supposedly allocated for the rehabilitation of the destruction wrought by Ondoy. Because of this, thousands of people still are located in evacuation centers even a year after Ondoy and Pepeng. In spite of this budget, the government continues to ask for funds or grants supposedly for adaptation funds but fails to use to them properly,” explained Ms. Nolasco.
The previous Arroyo administration has also squandered the calamity fund and has many cases of corruption under her belt as stated even by Malacanang. President Aquino must look into these long standing cases such as the charge of Arroyo spending most of the calamity fund for her campaign.
Ms. Nolasco stated that the Philippine government must prioritize adaptation measures before it claim sto be leader in climate change initiatives in the world. As for the foreign delegates, the groups are entreating the a more intense campaign and lobbying to the international community to take climate change adaptation seriously and exert more effort in addressing root causes of this global problem and holding accountable the biggest polluters in the world.