A climate-responsive budget

By: Atty. Gloria Estenzo Ramos December 20,2015 - 10:29 PM

The back-to-back typhoons “Nona” and “Onyok” left many parts of the archipelago flooded, lives lost, agriculture and livelihoods devastated and thousands stranded.

The dire situation is a rehash of past calamities. More and stronger impacts of climate change such as coral bleaching are even expected in the forthcoming year. Before the second storm hit the country, we were alarmed by the news of fish kills and red tide affecting the clams and oysters in the Visayas. The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources surmised that the red tide “may have been caused by the long dry season and changes in temperature.”

While we cannot do anything with geography, as the Philippines’ location make it a hotspot for environmental disasters, we can certainly build our resiliency to the effects of climate change by preparedness and awareness.

Mainstreaming disaster risk reduction and management (DRRM) in the policies and programs of government and even in the private sector is certainly a must.

The proposed P3.002-trillion national budget for 2016 is up for the president’s signature anytime soon. It is a reflection of the initiative of both the executive and legislative branches to build the capacity of our institutions and the citizens to cope better and learn from the sad lessons of the past tragedies.

Sen. Loren Legarda, recently designated as United Nations’ Global Champion for Resilience, and in her capacity as chairperson of the Senate Committee on Finance, declared in her sponsorship of the proposed 2016 national budget that “this budget is not budget as usual. . .Faced with the threats of climate change, extreme weather events are now the new normal, we cannot be victims as usual, so we cannot have a budget as usual. We need a budget that not only responds to the basic needs of our citizens but also proactively addresses the risks that threaten the very basic needs we aim to provide our people. We need a budget that reduces and manages existing risks and prevents the creation of new risks.”

She adds that: “Your Committee on Finance has worked to make the 2016 national budget proactively address the impacts of climate change and extreme weather events. Programs, projects and activities for disaster risk reduction (DRR) and climate change adaptation and mitigation (CCAM) lodged in different agencies of government amount to Php87,935,087,000 or 4.11% of the total new appropriations under the General Appropriations Bill (GAB). This is still a small percentage, an indication that we have not totally mainstreamed disaster resilience and climate adaptation in government programs. Thus, we have included special provisions that will integrate DRR and CCAM in the programs of government.”

From the sponsorship speech of Senator Legarda, expect the following features of the budget to protect our people and biodiversity, strengthen ecosystems and build safe and resilient infrastructure:

1. Increased allocation for infrastructure projects, such as irrigation, road and transport networks and housing, at P766.3 billion, hitting the benchmark of five percent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). There is a special provision in the budget to ensure the construction of safe and resilient infrastructure.

2. Aligning the budget through the government agencies with the new 17 sustainable development goals (SDGs) approved by the United Nations in September 25 (http://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/sustainable-development-goals).

3. With a view of promoting inclusive growth, the budget provides very specific line items responsive to the needs of fisherfolk and coastal communities, farmers, rural folks, indigenous communities. There are amendments that will support 4th, 5th and 6th class municipalities and barangays in the country.

4. The Department of Education (DepEd) receives the highest budgetary priority, with an allocated P436.5 billion. As the implementation of the senior high school curriculum under the K-12 program begins in 2016, the budget includes allocation for construction of classrooms and hiring of additional teachers.

5. Increased budget for the judiciary and the Department of Justice “as the agency aims to increase the rate of prosecutions to at least 75%.”

6. The bulk of amendments and new provisions introduced were aimed towards the goal of ensuring the resilience of our communities to natural hazards and climate change, among which are:

(i) the amount of P100 million is provided under the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to support the National Solid Waste Management Commission, for the implementation of the Ecological Solid Waste Management (ESWM) Law.

(ii) Allocation of P500 million for the National Coral Restoration Program as “[t]he protection of our marine ecosystems should likewise be a priority of government. The Philippines has 240 million hectares of marine area based on the 200-mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ). In contrast, the country’s land area is only 30 million hectares. We are a maritime nation, but we do not act like one as only five percent of our coral reefs are in good condition. We have urged the DENR to immediately address the worsening state of the country’s marine ecosystems by creating a major program for coral restoration just like the National Greening Program.”

With such strong budgetary allocations for strengthening of ecosystems, we expect citizens and government alike to push vigorously for the budget’s no-nonsense implementation. There is no other option if we are to weather the constant climate challenge that will be with us for our lifetime and beyond.

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TAGS: disaster, disaster risk reduction and management, Ecological Solid Waste Management, Onyok, risk, typhoon

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