PH risks 'outsider' status sans climate pact nod: ICSC

Trishia Billones, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Nov 01 2016 12:54 PM

The Philippines will have little to no say on climate negotiations if President Rodrigo Duterte refuses to ratify the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, an advocate group said Tuesday.

"If we don’t ratify the Paris Agreement, then we remain outsiders to the negotiations. We can’t [have a] say [on] the rules, and it decreases, reduces our voice in the climate negotiations that will take place very soon," Institute for Climate and Sustainable Cities (ICSC) Executive Director Red Constantino told [email protected]

Constantino said it would be a shame if the Philippines fails to ratify the pact, noting the deal approved by nearly 200 countries December last year shall come into effect on November 4, a few days before the Philippines marks three years since Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) wreaked havoc on the country.

"There are just so many reminders for a vulnerable country like the Philippines, to the country to exercise a stronger leadership role in the negotiations abroad," he said.

"We would like to think that the government will take an active interest in lending its voice, not to the developed country, not to the big emitters like China and India and Saudi Arabia, but to the vulnerable nations that it used to head in Paris in putting forth a very ambitious climate change accord," he added.

Under former President Benigno Aquino III, the Philippines was among the countries that agreed on the binding global compact to slash greenhouse gases and keep global temperature increases to "well below" 2 degrees Celsius.

But current President Duterte has repeatedly expressed disdain for the pact, saying cutting carbon emissions at a point when the Philippines' economic rise is just starting will be unfair since industrialized countries have been giving off such emissions for decades.

ICSC however believes the President "is not well-informed" on the issue of how environment protection can go "hand in glove" with industrialization. The group said it remains optimistic that advisers within Duterte's close circle can nudge the President toward ratifying the pact.

"This is very clear even in his own city in Davao and in a lot of pronouncements of a lot of the advisers of the President, that environment and climate protection can go hand in glove [with] climate action and industrialization," Constantino said.

"We think that the President is not well-informed on this issue, and that it is very fortunate that many, if not most, of the key Cabinet members in the Duterte administration are very much in favor of signing the Paris Agreement as soon as we can," he said, noting that among them is National Economic Development Authority, Secretary Ernie Pernia.

In a column published on Sunday, Former President Fidel V. Ramos, also a close-in adviser of Duterte, said Filipinos will be more prone to the devastating effects of typhoons if Duterte does not ratify the pact.

On Monday, Ramos reportedly quit his post as the country's special envoy to China, but Presidential Communications Secretary Martin Andanar said Malacañang has yet to receive the elder statesman's resignation.

For Constantino, Ramos supported Duterte because of the latter's openness to criticism. He said the ICSC takes a similar view.

"We are pretty sure that with the really wise, strategically-minded people in the Duterte government that eventually, they will see that an active voice of the country internationally will only do well for the country because it gives us an active role, a centerstage voice in terms of reshaping rules that will add, redound to our country’s benefit in terms of more clean energy investments, technology transfer and finance that rich countries are obliged to provide to us; in terms of making the rich countries more accountable to acting with greater speed, far earlier, and far more," he said.

Constantino said it is up to the leadership of agencies, such as Secretary Alfonso Cusi of the Department of Energy, to "determine what kind of climate action we will take and at what rate and what speed."

"Paris cannot prevent us from economically developing because we are the ones who will set the pace of change or transformational developments that should be taking place in the economy that would only make us cleaner, provide more clean jobs and industrialize in a more sustainable manner," he said.

One of the most important signals the ratification will send, he added, is that "it is ready to leave behind one legacy of the previous administration, which has taken a particular favor towards coal and polluting power and I guess a more strategic approach can be taken by the new government."