RENATO REDENTOR CONSTANTINO
May 29, 2010
Perhaps the future is from yesterday.
It was 38 degrees celsius on Wednesday in Metro Manila. In other parts of the country the heat hit 39. Sporadic showers have come but they say it will be a week more or still before the clouds fully gather.
Scorched may just be the global mode for some time, unless people who think themselves higher on the food chain by virtue of their wealth and power turn things around. And so it goes.
Vinashkale biparit budhi -- here's an Indian proverb that's apt for our seared condition. Proceeding towards danger, we bring contrary wisdom, which heightens the state of menace, and noone can save us.
A week ago, the World Bank approved financing packages "totaling $258.64 million", largely "to support the Philippines’ reconstruction in areas hit by two storms ... which the World Bank described as 'a quick disbursing loan' to enable the government to speed up reconstruction in areas hit by storms Ondoy and Pepeng late last year.
It's a loanshark's racket.
Thugs arrive to burn down a community and later, sifting through the ashes, they offer loans to help the victims rebuild their lives.
Who are the largest country shareholders of the World Bank?
Countries such as the US, Canada, Australia and Japan, who also happen to be some of the world's most notorious climate polluters.
In April, the bank approved a loan to Eskom, South Africa's energy utility, worth $3.75 billion. Around $3.45 billion will go to finance Eskom's Medupi power station, one of the world's largest coal-fired power plants, which is described as "clean" and "climate-friendly" by the bank.
Analysts estimate the Medupi plant will produce around 30 million tons of carbon dioxide each year, adding significantly to potentially irreversible harm to the planet's climatic system.
World bank lending for renewable energy "is still dwarfed by its fossil fuel investments," said the Bretton Woods Project, a group monitoring operations of international financial institutions.
The bank helps sear the earth, raising temperatures that fuel more severe and frequent storms, then grabs the tragedy it has created as an opportunity to push more loans.
What do you say in the face of such naked profiteering?
And what do you tell the Philippine government, which has consistently pursued some of the most progressive positions in the UN-organized international climate treaty negotiations?
Abroad it continues to correctly push polluter countries to pay and channel immediate financing for global warming impacts -- not through loans but as compensation. Domestically, the Philippine government calls for the construction of more coal-fueled power stations while it borrows money to pay for damage wrought by warming-induced extreme weather events -- money that should come in as reparations from institutions and countries it knows are responsible for the climate crisis to begin with.
* * *
Months ago, a good thing took place -- the Philippine Climate Change Commission was created, thus putting in place the "policy-making body of the government ... tasked to coordinate, monitor and evaluate the programs and action plans of the government relating to climate change."
Unfortunately, little has taken place since its formation.
The "body" remains skeletal, its limbs seemingly belonging to separate entities. Since the RA 9729, also known as the Climate Change Act, which also created the Philippine climate body, was signed into law and became effective in November 2009, the commission has convened as a collegial body only once or twice, despite the devastation wrought by the recent drought, and the previous and current intersessional meeting of parties to the UN climate treaty in Bonn, Germany where crucial issues will be tackled.
So far, the way forward appears fraught with risks. On the recommendation of the commission, the Arroyo administration signed the hastily crafted implementing rules and regulations (IRR) of the Climate Change Act, an IRR that contains incredibly absurd sections contrary to law and which displays ignorance of current administrative norms in the Philippine government.
For instance, the IRR gives the Climate Change Commission "the authority to issue rules and regulations governing, but not limited to, environmental pollution, clean air act implementation, solid waste management, greenhouse gases, ozone depleting substances, chemical control orders, conservation, land classification, forestry policies and operational plans, mine exploration and production sharing with government as well as financial and technical assistance arrangements, oil exploration and agreements, energy conservation subjects, and may amend, revise, reverse, revoke or modify existing rules, regulations and issuance which are contrary to or inconsistent with the climate change policies provided for under Republic Act 9729."
Everything, in short. Another superbody. A dictatorial superbody with a grand desire -- for this is just what it is, a desire, since the IRR's formulation will be legally contested for its fundamental infirmities, and rightly so. Its desire is to possess authority over pretty much everything, issuing -- or revoking or revising -- all other rules, regulations and other issuances related to climate change, which is everything under the sky.
As if this was not bad enough, the IRR even carries a provision stating "The DBM [Department of Budget and Management] shall carry out the approved offices, items and positions for the Commission including the national panel of technical experts to be hired by the Commission as provided for under Section 10 of the Climate Act. This formulation demonstrates poor understanding, at best, of relevant Philippine laws, which rightly gives the DBM the say over personnel determinations of agencies, not the other way around, as the current IRR of the Climate Change Act stipulates.
The climate crisis must be faced squarely, not via a handful of decisionmakers but through a coordinated effort that mobilizes all relevant sections of the Philippine government, in collaboration with non-government organizations, academic institutions, communities and the private sector. #
1. Alcuin Papa, "Metro Manila hits 38˚C – Pagasa," Philippine Daily Inquirer, 26 May 2010.
2. Nikko Dizon, "No break from high temperatures ‘til mid-June -- PAGASA," Philippine Daily Inquirer, 23 May 2010.
3. "World Bank OK’s $258.6M to finance RP reconstruction, pollutant management," BusinessWorld, 21 May 2010.
4. "Bank energy lending causes uproar," Bretton Woods Update Number 70 - March/April 2010.
5. "World Bank's Climate and Governance Disaster," joint news release by groundWork, Friends of the Earth-Africa and Earthlife Africa, 8 April 2010.
6. Ibid. 4.
7. As defined in Sec. 1 (p), Rule III on Definition of Terms) of the IRR: "“Policy oversight” shall mean that the Commission shall have the authority to issue rules and regulations governing, but not limited to, environmental pollution, clean air act implementation, solid waste management, greenhouse gases, ozone depleting substances, chemical control orders, conservation, land classification, forestry policies and operational plans, mine exploration and production sharing with government as well as financial and technical assistance arrangements, oil exploration and agreements, energy conservation subjects, and may amend, revise, reverse, revoke or modify existing rules, regulations and issuance which are contrary to or inconsistent with the climate change policies provided for under Republic Act 9729."
Directly related to this is Sec. 4. Oversight and Policy Supervision of the IRR which states: "Pursuant to all the foregoing mandate of the Climate Act, the Climate Change Commission under the Office of the President shall have, policy oversight over the various offices affecting climate change through the concerned member departments of the Advisory Board." See Sec. 4, Rule VI on Powers and Functions of the Commission.
8. Para. 2, sec. 1, Rule V, Climate Change Office of the IRR.