Philippines’ senate leader calls for climate “compensation”

“Developing countries like the Philippines should be receiving compensation for such damages inflicted on our environment and on our people. Instead, however, we are accepting or, worse, being ‘forced’ to avail of loans that are, in the long run, more disadvantageous for the country.”

(Manila, 22 July, 2010) Philippines Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile today launched a new action agenda on climate change which he described as “the first step the country needs to take to ensure national survival.”

“We are already reeling from the injurious effects of climate change, which will only worsen. Climate action is urgent and we must use public finance as a vital tool to protect the vulnerable sectors of our society as well as our fragile ecosystems,” Enrile said.

“Once again, we saw how devastating the effects of climate change could be when typhoon Basyang wreaked havoc in many parts of the country just last week,” Enrile said. “Lives were lost, properties were destroyed, public infrastructures were damaged, industries and even government operations were halted because of the typhoon. We have to be better prepared and equipped for occurrences like this.”

The Senate Chief said he will file a bill that will establish a “National Survival Fund” that will democratize access to available funds, both local and international and, at the same time, create predictable long-term finance streams for urgent adaptation activities and climate-induced disaster preparedness programs.

Enrile also called on the Aquino administration to declare “adaptation as the country’s priority and to ensure that domestic measures provide maximum protection to our people from the impact of the climate crisis which the rich, industrialized and developed nations are largely responsible for.”

“We have to address the inevitable threats of climate change. A more compelling need is to strengthen our adaptation efforts to enable our local communities and our people, particularly in the most vulnerable areas in the country, to immediately and effectively adjust to the drastic changes in our environment caused by climate change, such as sea-level rise, extended drought, or flash floods. We must therefore allocate more resources to these adaptation activities.”

Enrile also filed P.S. Resolution. No. 9 which calls for an inquiry into the utilization of climate finance that the Philippine government has availed of, which were in the form of loans or grants with potentially adverse conditionalities, and P.S. Resolution No. 10 which directs the Senate to review Republic Act No. 9729 or the Climate Change Act to strengthen its provisions to enable the government to effectively address the problem of climate change.

“The climate debate is about justice. Harm has been inflicted on our people. Developing countries like the Philippines should be receiving compensation for such damages inflicted on our environment and on our people. Instead, however, we are accepting or, worse, being ‘forced’ to avail of loans that are, in the long run, more disadvantageous for the country. This has to change,” Enrile said.

The re-elected senator cited two loans with the combined amount of $361 million recently approved by the World Bank and the government of Japan ostensibly for reconstruction efforts related to the damage wrought by typhoons Ondoy and Pepeng last year. “The flood waters of extreme weather events have long since subsided but it seems we will be flooded with more debt in the future,” said Enrile.

Enrile cited the study released by climate change think-tank Institute for Climate and Sustainable Cities (iCSC) which showed that the Philippines accepted more funds for mitigation efforts instead of adaptation initiatives, which he said should be “the national imperative.”

“Worse,” said Enrile, “it appears most of the money for adaptation we received came in the form of loans when, in fact, there are available sources of fund which we can avail of for free or without any strings attached.”
Senator Enrile’s participation in addressing the climate change issue was warmly welcomed by civil society groups.

“Public finance is the most important instrument our country can wield to ensure that vulnerable communities become more resilient in the face of the climate crisis,” said Red Constantino, head of the iCSC. “No one knows public finance better than Senator Enrile and his leadership on this issue will likely change the terms of the debate,” Constantino said.

Constantino supported Enrile’s call for urgent climate action and urged the Aquino administration “to take concerted action against the governance chaos reigning over the administration of climate change-driven finance in the Philippines.” #

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