PREPARING FOR A FRANKENSTORM LIKE SANDY, PHILIPPINE-STYLE: Four Take-Aways from the Climate Change Commission’s Recent NCCAP Review and Assessment

CURRENT SOCIETAL CONCERN
Elpidio V. Peria
10 November 2012

The Climate Change Commission organized an Assessment and Review of the National Climate Change Action Plan (NCCAP) in Villa Escudero this week, from November 5, to validate the result of previous workshops it did last July and October with government agencies on identifying the gaps and challenges in the seven thematic areas of the NCCAP – water sufficiency, food security, ecosystem and ecological stability, sustainable energy, human security, climate-smart industry and services, and knowledge management – so as to cluster the government programs and projects already identified to address these gaps and challenges and from these clusters, pick from among them, a so-called anchor program, characterized as, among other key qualifiers used, urgent, will have the most impact and is “foundational”, something that must be done first before the rest of the programs will happen.

The NCCAP is a rare planning document of the government since it has a long time frame, from 2011 to 2028, much unlike the Philippine Development Plan which will run only up to the term of a Philippine President which is 2016. Looking at the contents of the NCCAP found in the website of the Commission (www.climate.gov.ph), it is a long list of wished-for outcomes but is short on the how, particularly the identification of funds and other means and implementing mechanisms to realize all the identified outputs and outcomes of the thematic areas.

This is precisely the reason why, a year after the NCCAP was signed by Pnoy, sometime in November 2011, this workshop was organized to focus on the how, even if the activity is labeled as “assessment and review” with some groups even asking what is there to assess given that only a year has passed. Having participated in the workshop as a member of Aksyon Klima Pilipinas, here are some of my own personal ‘take-aways’ from that workshop, based on immediate impressions and understandings of discussions seen and heard :

1. The line agencies that matter were not present during the review – there were many government agencies present, but those that are the key, including its key officials, like the Department of Energy for sustainable energy, Department of Science and Technology and the Department of Trade and Industry for climate-smart industry and services, Office of Civil Defense for human security, Department of Agriculture for food security, and the Department of Finance, Department of Budget and Management as well as the National Economic Development Authority for the key tasks of coordination, including planning and programming at the macro-level and identifying financing arrangements, were not present. This will somehow delay the fine-tuning of the anchor programs identified since the key officials from these key agencies may have views on these anchor programs that are different from what was agreed during the workshop. One glaring example of this is the anchor program on sustainable energy on the conduct of IEC to foster the development of renewable energy programs and hasten the development of alternative fuels. While the anchor program has some suggestions on how transition is to be made to these programs given the spate of coal-fired power plants that are in the pipeline under the Power Development Program 2009-2030 of the DOE, for example, would the DOE, including its new Secretary, agree and commit to such transition so that these coal-fired power plants should be phased out over a period of time so the anchor program on sustainable energy can really be considered a credible one ? After the workshop, the answer is, we don’t really know.

2. The anchor programs weren’t really that game-changing, or “foundational” – A concern was raised already by Aksyon Klima Pilipinas prior to the workshop that care should be taken to ensure that the exercise of clustering and identifying cluster programs should not be like the previous major efforts of Philippine bureaucracy in earlier challenging periods, like the preparation of safety nets to cushion our accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO), back in 1995 where any and all government programs then were labeled as “GATT (General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, the former name of the WTO) safety nets” or during the time of agriculture modernization in early 2000 where most government projects relating to agriculture were classified as part of what was then an “agricultural modernization” program.

In this case, we have the anchor program for ecosystem and environmental stability which puts together the existing programs of DOST-PCAARD and the DENR on the National Greening Program and now they are called An RDE (Research, Development and Extension) Program for Developing a Climate Robust Agriculture, Forest and Natural Resources Sector in the Philippines, am called Research, Development and Extension (RDE) for Agriculture and Natural Resources, which in essence are the same things being done by these agencies, albeit now this will be done through a so-called “climate lens”.

Another example is in the thematic area of climate-smart industries and services, the group somehow compromised towards adopting the existing 20-year old program of the DOST on clean production, as part of its anchor program on developing an enabling environment for climate-smart industries and services and climate-resilient infrastructure. Whatever climate-related aspect this clean production program will have will involve the conduct of greenhouse gas inventories, among other things, but solid waste management has long been institutionalized under this clean production scheme.

3. Implementation Mechanisms Not Really Clarified – for all the kulit, or insistence, of Aksyon Klima Pilipinas that the discussion proceed to means of implementation, such as identifying the funds that will be needed and sourced to fully implement these programs and identifying the technology transfer needs, the remaining time was instead unproductively devoted on an over-extended discussion on indicators which could have been done at a later stage, after all, the anchor programs identified cannot really be considered as final, given that key agencies that will run these programs are not around to commit to these programs and implement them for the entire 17-year-long duration of the NCCAP. To her credit, the Deputy Executive Director of the Climate Change Office, Ms. Joy Goco, presented to the plenary a listing of what Commission Vice-Chair Lucille Sering earlier mentioned as Php 800 million worth of grants and bilateral arrangements entered into by the Climate Change Commission, but participants were not given the chance to seek clarification on these items, there was not even time to ask if those presented added up to the Php 800 million announced. More importantly however, the plenary did not delve into how these agencies will relate to each other under the strategic coordination of the Climate Change Commission, since if these agencies will just go back to implementing these programs under their respective mandates, we cannot really be sure if we will get complementation and support among agencies in attaining these programs.

4. Other Key Concerns Were Left Out – given that there was no more time to really delve deeper on what else will be needed, some key concerns raised were not anymore substantively discussed, such as the following:

a) Governance mechanisms – this is similar to the earlier point in implementing mechanisms but this is more long-term and a means to ensure accountability for non-implementation or some slack in the implementation of the NCCAP; this is also necessary to harmonize the mandates of the key agencies such that they will coincide their agency directives and instructions to match the implementation needs of the programs under NCCAP; or this can also be seen as your usual project management unit that will oversee the day to day implementation of the various activities done by many agencies under the program; the longer this is not clarified, the longer implementation will be dragged by questions and clarifications and meetings on how the agencies should move together, which takes away their time from actual implementation of these programs;

b) Transparency mechanisms – perhaps the Climate Change Commission should emulate the practice pioneered by the late DILG Secretary Jesse Robredo, why not post in the website in the CCC the funds received from bilateral arrangements for implementing key programs, including also the terms and conditions for these bilateral arrangements? The Filipino people has the right to know whether this and that bilateral funding support has actually benefited them and is effective in attaining its identified objectives;

c) Coherence mechanisms – what steps should be taken during the implementation that agencies will not act at cross-purposes with each other? Should large-scale mining, now to be pursued by the Mining Industry Coordinating Council ( is this really a properly created constitutional body, that can be tackled in later blog posts if that is requested by readers), be continued at the same pace it is being done now, this will render inutile the fledgling attempts to ensure ecosystem resilience agreed to by the same DENR agencies here in this workshop. Given the DOE’s resolve to establish baseload capacity through coal-fired power plants and locking them in through 25 year power supply agreements, how else can the much promoted renewable energy and alternative fuels development enter the mainstream when they are already eased out in the country’s evolving energy mix? Or how should NEDA harmonize the programs to be funded here, with its own Public Investment Program?

These take-aways would only indicate that there needs to be closer follow-up work that needs to be done by the Climate Change Commission, and hopefully, Pnoy should already take personal attention to the affairs of this Commission. He is after all, the Chair of this Commission.

This seems to be the only way to ensure key government agencies will pay close attention to the NCCAP. Otherwise, as lamented by climate change advocates, it will just be businessas usual.

oOo

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