Changes urged in climate body

07/20/2010 - MANILA, Philippines - A group advocating climate change preparedness has urged President Aquino to undertake “immediate and full-scale changes” in the Climate Change Commission amid the possible diversion of a P10.5-billion French loan without its knowledge.

“We call on President Aquino to step in and immediately convene the Climate Change Commission, which he chairs. It’s time for change in the commission,” Institute for Climate and Sustainable Cities (ICSC) director Red Constantino said.

“This is yet one more indication of the chaos plaguing the management of climate finance in the Philippines. Governance by ‘adhocracy’ is unacceptable in the face of worsening climate impacts,” he said.

Earlier, commission vice chair former senator Heherson Alverez said he was unaware that a 150-million euro loan (roughly P10.5 billion) had been signed between the Philippines and the Agence Francaise de Developpment last February. The French embassy recently announced the loan was fully disbursed by May, or in three months in an election season. The Arroyo administration appointed Alvarez to the commission in late 2009.

Asked to explain the fast disbursement, former finance chief Margarito Teves said the fund had to be used for “budget support” or for plugging the widening deficit. He also stressed the loan agreement did not limit the use of the fund to climate change projects. The French embassy espoused the same view.

Constantino said they are not satisfied with Alvarez’s performance in the commission, which is chaired by the president.

The ICSC also lambasted Finance Undersecretary Rosalia de Leon for justifying the use of the loan for other government projects.

The group said De Leon’s statement was “silly and demonstrates the kind of mess prevailing over the country’s climate change leadership.”

“What we have here seems to be abuse and misuse of climate funds,” the group said.

The ICSC first raised an alarm early this month over what it called “governance chaos reigning over the administration of climate funds that has entered the country from abroad.”

“The utter lack of national plans and priorities has led to climate-related money coming into the country in the form of unjust loans channeled towards the wrong priorities,” it said.

“As a developing country most vulnerable to climate change impacts, the Philippine priority should be activities that help our country adapt and become more resilient to climate change,” Constantino said.

“Our country is not responsible for the climate crisis and we are among the injured parties. This is an issue of reparations, not charity or aid,” he said.

Flawed finance management

The Freedom from Debt Coalition, for its part, said the use of the P10.5-billion loan to plug the deficit showed the government’s dismal handling of finances.

“Clearly, former President Arroyo’s strategy of ‘fiscal compression’ took a sardonic turn: in a period when climate conditions are worsening, her administration prioritized the needs of the lenders and denied vulnerable communities protection,” the FDC said in a statement.

The group said it was hoping President Aquino would realize the flaw in the public finance policy.

“But another issue which must not be overlooked is the fact that the climate fund came from a loan from the AFD even if France and other developed countries agreed in Article 4.3 of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change that they will be provisioning full costs and full incremental costs of adapting and mitigating from climate change –- which means that climate finance transfers should not be in the form of loans,” FDC said.

“While President Aquino addresses the irregularity of using the AFD loan to plug in the deficit, he should also demand explanation from the French government as to why the loan occurred in the first place,” Milo Tanchuling, FDC secretary-general, said.

No basis

Meanwhile, Alvarez called Constantino’s claims baseless.

“It seems he (Constantino) does not know the dynamics and the actions taken by the organization. He doesn’t understand,” Alvarez said.

He noted that before the commission can come up with relevant modules, it has to consult first with more than 1,000 agencies, scholars, scientists and technicians.

“This is a collective effort and much has already been done in the fight for climate change,” Alvarez said.

He said the commission is expected to meet with President Aquino on July 28 to present its plans and achievements.

“The problem with these groups is that they are just creating noise but they don’t know what they are saying. Instead of sowing confusion, they should instead help in this advocacy to address the problem of climate change.” (Philippine Star)

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