Is the Philippines Getting a Firm Grip on Climate Change?

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Is the Philippines Getting a Firm Grip on Climate Change?

The report entitled, “Getting a Grip on Climate Change in the Philippines” is a comprehensive document on the climate change impacts on the Philippines and implementation of the climate agenda.

Published in 2013, the report is a narrative of the review that the World Bank, the Department of Budget and Management (DBM), and the Climate Change Commission (CCC) conducted to assess gaps and accelerate the implementation of the climate agenda.

It presents the challenges the Philippine government is facing in integrating climate change into its policies, funding, implementation, and the framework for monitoring and evaluating success or gaps in climate activities.

The Philippine government through the DBM and CCC consulted with the World Bank to conduct the Climate Public Expenditure and Institutional Review (CPEIR).

Carried out between February 2012 and March 2013, the CPEIR sought to identify innovations in policy, institutions, and financing of climate action, along with achievements, limitations, and disconnects in the current approaches to addressing climate issues and policy (Getting A Grip, 2013).

The review came up with recommendations and guidance, particularly on policy innovation and finance of climate action. The World Bank has recommended a finance reform that will increase transparency and accountability in public climate financing among other recommendations, the report says.

We have taken some notes from the World Bank CPEIR report, which provides a comprehensive review of the climate initiative that the Philippines has undertaken.

The vulnerability of the Philippines to climate change and climate hazards

Global climate change is taking its toll on the Philippines – the third most vulnerable country to sea-level rise and extreme weather events by virtue of its location, climate, and topography. The country is exposed to a range of climate hazards like typhoons, floods, landslides, droughts. Sixteen of its provinces belongs to the top 50 most vulnerable regions in Southeast Asia.

The report points out who will be the most impacted by climate change:

  • the poorest, those living in coastal areas, and urban population particularly to flooding because of a less secure infrastructure. Climate change will reduce access to clean water and the lack of health insurance will make matters worse.
  • agricultural productivity will decline due to climate-related events and diminishing yields in fishery activities will result from warming oceans and acidification of coral reefs.

Other factors that will exacerbate the impacts of climate change are rapid environmental deterioration, unsustainable agriculture and fishing practices, and population growth.

The urgency to implement climate reforms and actions

Because of these vulnerabilities, there is an urgency to implement climate reforms, according to the report. It will reduce risks to the country’s future development plans while contributing to broader development goals.

For example, investing and promoting renewable sources will lower energy costs and contribute to energy security. These climate adaptation measures will benefit the environment and the resources it provides.

The report also shows the governments emphasis on adaptation and consolidating it with its disaster risk reduction program.

Implementation of Climate Change Action and Integrating it into Government policies presents a massive challenge, the report claims.

The Philippine government, according to the report, is seeking to integrate climate change into its national and local policy formulation and development through promulgating the Climate Change Act in 2009.

This law created the Climate Change Commission (CCC) to formulate the National Framework Strategy on Climate Change and the National Climate Change Action Plan (NCCAP). The latter serves as the roadmap to climate action at all levels of the government, the report says.

The report mentions some of the challenges that the Philippine government is facing for integrating and implementing climate change actions:

  • “Climate policy reform efforts are only partially aligned with development plan outcomes, thereby limiting effectiveness”. The report goes on to say that a climate activity in one policy or plan may not be considered as such in another. This makes it difficult to monitor and coordinate climate activities across all government departments and levels.
  • There is no clear roles and responsibilities across government institutions with regards to the implementation and coordination of climate actions.
  • There is a lack of institutional capacity, knowledge, management, and monitoring and evaluation for the success of climate change activities.
  • At the local level, development of climate change plans is an additional burden to its other pressing developmental needs.
  • Information and knowledge are needed in the national and local level for capacity building.

Is there enough climate financing from the government and development partners?

Despite the challenges in the implementation and coordination of climate activities, funding for climate change projects has increased, according to the report.

There is an increase in government financing for prioritized activities and projects and external funding from development partners have supported flood control projects that the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) managed.

Climate budget has increased significantly which reflects high concern for climate change. From 2008 to 2012 the budged increased from Php 12 billion to Php 35 billion which is 1.9 per cent of the national budget.  And it has grown yearly since at 26 per cent annually.

These funding appropriations goes to the government’s investments in flood control, and national greening program, electric vehicle projects in 2012, and the Philippine Rice Research Institute, and other smaller projects like the promotion of organic agriculture.

Are funds for climate projects being used?

Although the climate budget has significantly increased, there are still financing gaps and funding inadequacies as shown in the government’s public investment fund, according to the World Bank report. The governments’ General Appropriations Act (GAA) revealed the appropriation for some projects have not been used or secured.

For example, significant funding pledge in the agriculture and fishery sectors, the energy sector with the renewable energy project, and the environment and natural resource sector were not ‘mobilized’, the report claims.

Smaller activities were not funded like ecosystem stability, water security, research on climate-resilient crop varieties, setting up of climate database, among others.

“Local Government Units are action-oriented, but sources of funding available are fragmented and their available amounts are limited.”

The local government units (LGU’s) are the most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change yet has the least capacity to provide support under the current revenue-sharing arrangement, the report says.

Seventy per cent of its income is from the Internal Revenue Allotment (IRA), a direct transfer of funds from the national government.

  • Funding climate change action is challenging because financial sources have a different set of rules and eligibility criteria making it hard for the LGU’s to mobilize and monitor resources.  
  • Climate projects and activities compete with existing development burdens and challenges that the LGU’s are facing such as high poverty levels, environmental deteriorations which becomes its priority. 
  • Additionally, the Local Government Code, explicitly states that the Local Development Fund be used in the Local Development Plans, the report says.

Funds for Climate Mitigation is also increasing.

Since 2008, climate appropriations have focused on adaptation measures but slowly appropriation on mitigation has slowly increased as well. The report also notes that despite increases to the national Calamity Fund, most of it is spent on the response, recovery, and rehabilitation instead of disaster prevention.

Climate change and how the country tackles the problem, through its policies, budgeting, and implementation presents a huge challenge to the country that is already facing many issues.

What the CPEIR recommends

Below are brief outlines of the recommendations and actions plans to result from the Climate Public Expenditure and Institutional Review (CPEIR), a joint exercise that the World Bank and key sectors of the Philippine government conducted.

  1. Strengthening the planning execution and financing frameworks for climate change. There is no single mechanism to unify climate change activities into its policy and financing methods. Tagging of climate activities and programs to identify it in the budget and management process is one way to integrate it into the government’s existing policies and budget.
  2. Enhancing accountability through monitoring, evaluation, review of climate change policies and activities.
  3. Building capacity and managing change.

The report serves as a benchmark and basis for climate change actions in the Philippines. It presents the fiscal and policy situation in the Philippines and the challenges it faces to integrate and implement climate change agenda into its various government levels and department.

What are the underlying challenges the Philippines is facing

While we cannot come up with conclusive thoughts based merely on the report cited here, and considering the possible developments that might have transpired since 2013 when the report came out, we can only posit some questions.

What and how do the prevailing bureaucracy in the Philippines and the oftentimes complicated administrative procedures in most levels of government, the government departments having their own policies and procedures, affect the integration, funding, and implementation of climate change?

How will any city, province, or barangay (village) improve the implementation of climate adaptation and mitigation programs amidst the allege culture of corruption in the government?

The success or failure of a policy or reforms depends on the current elected officials and its appointed cabinet or administrative officials. Misallocation and misuses of government funds by elected public officials is common news and knowledge in the Philippines (“High-profile Philippines Senator,” 2014).

It is worth noting that this report was published in June 2013, five months before Typhoon Haiyan hit the Philippines in November 2013.

Despite having the Climate Change Act on 2009, the National Climate Change Action Plan (NCCAP), and the Disaster Risk Reduction program, the national government relief and rehabilitation efforts and continuing program after the Typhoon Yolanda disaster have been criticised as slow and unsatisfactory (“Typhoon Haiyan,” n.d., “Criticism of government response”).

From an observer’s point-of-view, it seems that implementing the climate agenda is daunting because of the state of government and its reported hardships in managing disasters and calamities. Nevertheless, the fact remains that there are national, provincial and city leaders who are rising to the critical occasion, either on a per climate change event basis or on the long-term sustainable climate programs.

Perhaps a continuing education and exposures to organisations from other countries and cultures that exemplify good governance and people empowerment, economy, and infrastructure management are needed greatly.

The Philippines is a country endowed with many resources, capability, and the best potential to get a firm grip on climate change.

Sources:

The World Bank. Washington, D.C. (2003, June). Getting a Grip on Climate Change in the Philippines. Retrieved from https://www.worldbank.org/content/dam/Worldbank/document/EAP/Philippines/Final%20ExReport.pdf
Philippines Is Haunted by Chaos of Earlier Storm as Typhoon Mangkhut Hits (2018, September 14), The New York Times. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2018/09/14/world/asia/typhoon-mangkhut-philippines-haiyan.html
Exclusive: Roxas: Charges of ‘Yolanda’ fund misuse ‘fake news (2018, November 19), CNN Phililppines. [article]. Retrieved from http://nine.cnnphilippines.com/incoming/2018/11/19/mar-roxas-yolanda-allegations-fake-news.html
High-profile Philippines senator arrested for misuse of government funds (2014, June 21), ABC News. Retrieved from https://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-06-20/philippines-corruption/5539874
Hays, J. (2015, June). Facts and Details: Politics in the Philippines [article]. Retrieved from http://factsanddetails.com/southeast-asia/Philippines/sub5_6f/entry-3904.html
Typhoon Haiyan. (n.d.). In Wikipedia. Retrieved 17 October 2019, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Typhoon_Haiyan

PHOTO CREDITS:

Header background image: Boracay Grotto, Philippines by Karl Hipolito

Featured image: Philippine Sights by Jade Jarbadan

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