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“Getting a Grip … On Climate Change in the Philippines”

The above study details the magnitude of the climate change problems as it currently confronts the Philippines. In 2009, Typhoon Ketsana and Parma flooded metropolitan Manila, while Typhoon Washi was classed as the world’s deadliest storm of 2011, followed by Typhoon Bopha in 2012. The Aquino government then staffed up its Climate Change Commission (CCC) and tasked it with creating a National Strategic Framework on Climate Change and a Climate Change Action Plan (NCCAP). These actions were accompanied by a 25 million USD funding appropriation to support the CCC. The government also requested a World Bank Study (Climate Public Expenditure and Institutional Review (CPEIR) to provide an external assessment of governmental expenditures regarding climate change, as well as its institutional capabilities to cope with the problem.

A careful read of the CPEIR indicates the presence of systemic problems that will critically handicap the mandate of the CCC if not addressed with the greatest urgency. The feedback provided by the World Bank Blog provides additional insight into the challenge of climate change as it affects the Philippines, particularly with regard to the level of consciousness of Filipino citizens as to the severity of the threat of the Philippines posed by climate change. Thus it is that both the CPEIR and the local citizenry have critical roles to play in confronting this issue with the seriousness it demands. A third factor critical to addressing the challenges of climate change—a factor not within the purview of the CPEIR study—is the role of the United Nations and other international bodies in addressing the problem of climate change at the global level. This is a particularly cogent issue since—apart from widespread deforestation for development projects, excessive vehicle emissions, and the free-style dumping of garbage and refuse by citizens—the Philippines is not an “industrial” polluter. Finally, not much is said in the CPEIR about the need for a joint “government/private sector” initiative to address climate change. Too much emphasis appears to have been placed on the government and its bureaucratic approach to the problem. I would suggest that the magnitude of the problem and the threat that it poses to “all” Filipinos calls for a nationwide public/private sector initiative.

It is evident from the CPEIR that the Philippine government has made a commitment to “staffing up” the CCC. Staffing-up, however, will have little or no effect—even with a modest level of funding if the “political will” of governmental leaders is not commensurate with the challenge at hand. The CPEIR notes that the government has taken the right steps in setting up a structure to begin to address the problems. This structure includes the Climate Change Commission, the Cabinet Cluster on Climate Change, and the People’s Survival Fund Board. Unfortunately, absent a comprehensive definition of the magnitude of the challenge, as well as clear thinking and a sense of utmost urgency, the government and its new bureaucratic structure to address climate change will simply have another bureaucracy that will do its best to make studies and file reports while the climate crisis currently facing the Philippines grows more ominous by the day. The CPEIR cites the following deficiencies within the government’s approach to the problem:

•Execution and coordination of climate actions are hindered by a lack of clarity in roles and responsibilities across institutions. This hinders leadership and accountability in implementing the climate agenda.
•The roles and relationships between the CCC and the other oversight agencies are not yet clarified, formulated, prioritized or streamlined.
•The Cabinet Cluster on Climate Change has not been fully effective in carrying out the climate agenda due to limited decision making opportunities and fragmented support.
•Systems are not in place to collect and integrate results from various Government Agencies, and a lack of agreed-upon indicators and targets has hindered the process of monitoring the integration of the NCCAP, impending an evaluation of results across climate PAPs.
•Departments have an insufficient numbers of knowledgeable and skilled staff on climate policy, financing and institutions. Knowledge gaps and the lack of knowledge management system have been key barriers for scaling up Climate Action in Departments and LGUs. Tools to support planning and prioritization are often not mainstreamed and too complex to use.

In summation, the challenges facing the Government of the Philippines in making its approach to climate change workable are daunting to say the least. Time is not on the side of the Philippines in this matter. It would appear that nothing less than a rethinking of the entire governmental approach to the problem—together with a nationwide conscious-raising initiative aimed at all Filipinos—is called for. Furthermore, the government cannot possibly tackle this problem by itself. It needs to mobilize a public/private sector initiative with the utmost urgency and “political will” as its driving force. Finally, plans at the national level should be coordinated with climate change initiatives at the international level since this is, by nature, a “global” problem.