The clock is ticking

By: Atty. Gloria Estenzo Ramos July 24,2016 - 09:32 PM

Today is the first State of the Nation address of President Duterte. Malacañang having already announced that the event is going to be cast in simplicity, expect less “fashionistas” among the members of Congress and invited personalities.

As the usual critics are now part of the new government, it is possible that there will be less demonstrators outside the venue. It is a fact that President Duterte has managed to persuade our brethren in the left to be open to a peace talk, which is a much-welcome development.

Weeks after taking his oath of office, it is clear that the President needs all the support and sound advice from us, the constituents. His controversial pronouncement of not honoring the Paris Agreement which the country signed last April is proof that he needs to learn more about our extreme vulnerability to the impacts of climate change and the global necessity for all nations to find common solutions to fight it. The threats are such that we can say without contradiction that the blame game is over.

The Philippines cannot afford to shun the global campaign to reduce greenhouse emissions in the guise of “development.” By doing so, we are forsaking the hundreds of thousands if not millions of our most vulnerable sectors – the poor, the children, the women, the elderly, those with disability – who are the most affected.

The commitment of each of the 175 Parties (174 countries and the European Union) including the Philippines to an “Intended Nationally Submitted Contributions” based on domestic policies is unprecedented. The world has never gone this far to an agreement to reduce carbon concentrations in the global atmosphere. We even spearheaded the Vulnerable Climate Forum in the days of intense negotiation leading towards the signing of the historic pact.

The President’s advisers must also know that we have existing national legislations to reduce our carbon footprint which, hopefully, the Duterte administration will go past the appalling lethargy of his two predecessors in implementing them.

Republic Act No. 9729, the Climate Change Act of 2009, declares as a public policy that “the State shall cooperate with the global community in the resolution of climate change issues, including disaster risk reduction,” “r(R)ecognizing the vulnerability of the Philippine archipelago and its local communities, particularly the poor, women and children, to potential dangerous consequences of climate change such as rising seas, changing landscapes, increasing frequency and/or severity of droughts, fires, floods and storms, climate-related illnesses and diseases, damage to ecosystems, biodiversity loss that affect the country’s environment, culture and economy.”

Under said statute, the President is made the Chairperson of the Climate Change Commission established as the “sole policy-making body of the government which shall be tasked to coordinate, monitor and evaluate the programs and action plans of the government relating to climate change…” The said Commission can do a lot more and be the forceful change agent for our country to respond to the dire impacts of climate change, as the law clearly intended it to be.

Republic Act No. 10121, the Philippine Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act of 2010, is another national law that needs the utmost prioritization of the Duterte presidency.

Local government units are the mandated key movers to implement the law. It is alarming that many of them still have not crafted the much-needed Climate Change Plan and Disaster Risk Reduction Management Plan, in consultation with the various stakeholders. The President has to supervise them and ensure that all complies with the laws and investigate those which have reneged on their mandates.

We have to build not just our people’s resiliency to climate change and more disasters, but those of our natural life support systems as well. Destruction of essential ecosystems through reclamation and unplanned “coastal” development projects must no longer be allowed. These run contrary to our environmental laws including R.A. 9729 which requires from each agency, including the local government units and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, the integration of the impacts and effects of climate change. Destroying the fragile corals, sea grass and mangroves is a criminal act and violates the constitutional duty of the State to protect our environmental rights.

This columnist fully agrees with our National Scientist and marine expert Dr. Angel C. Alcala in urging President Duterte “to honor the international treaty on climate change to show a good example to other nations.” Dr Alcala was quoted to say that “If we don’t abide by the Paris Agreement, we will contribute to the worsening increase in temperature that will endanger the whole world.”

The clock is ticking for urgent and coordinated actions at all levels and from all sectors to fight climate change.

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TAGS: climate change, Climate Change Act of 2009, Duterte, Duterte first SONA, Duterte SONA, Duterte SONA first, greenhouse emissions, Philippine Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act of 2010, President Duterte, President Rodrigo Duterte, President Rody Duterte, Republic Act No. 10121, Republic Act No. 9729, Rodrigo Duterte, Rody Duterte, SONA, State of the Nation

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