A Clear Path for Sustainability Transition Needed in the draft Philippine Development Plan 2017-2022

Elpidio V. Peria
15 January 2017


The officials of the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA), the country’s primary economic planning agency seems to be in a rush to finalize President Duterte’s economic blueprint for his term up to 2022, the Philippine Development Plan 2017-22 and civil society groups and stakeholders may find it difficult to beat the deadline the NEDA set for comments on the draft which is January 15, 2017 though it is good making submissions is now easier, which may be made directly on the page of the particular Chapter any stakeholder wants to comment on.

Given there’s no more time to delve on the specifics of each chapter, what’s important to point out to NEDA is that the draft Philippine Development Plan  or PDP should put forward a longer-term vision for economic development that may even go beyond the term of President Duterte, and even the one that follows him and the succeeding one after that.

It’s because, in this era of clearly-defined Sustainable Development Goals that was set by the United Nations General Assembly to last until 2030, it is imperative for countries to go beyond the narrow confines of its existing political time-frames and look further into the future and focus on how a country may achieve the goals of sustainable development.

Achieving the goals of sustainable development, to which the Philippines is not actually as stranger, having set up its first Philippine Council for Sustainable Development back in 1995, is more imperative now given the challenge of climate change, and the Philippines as a highly-vulnerable developing country has to prime its economic development goals in a manner that will meet the goals of stabilizing the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere which in turn will enable the country to maintain feeding its population and hitting its goals towards industrialization.

While the NEDA has done a good job articulating the developmental framework for each key economic sector which are spelled out in the various chapters of the draft Philippine Development Plan, there is currently no over-arching sustainability transition plan that will work towards achieving the long-term vision of the country beyond the 6–year limit of a typically elected administration.

Before proceeding further, first let us clarify, what is sustainability transition?

Sustainability transition has been defined by the Board on Sustainable Development of the National Research Council of the US back in 2003 as “meeting the needs of a stabilizing future world population while reducing hunger and poverty and maintaining the planet’s life support systems.”

In the Philippine context, sustainability transition is the process of how we transform our existing socio-economic, technological and even, governance, systems in such a manner that we can attain the sustainable development goal that we will set ourselves. When we talk about sustainable development in the current context, of necessity, this means we will have to address the challenges foisted on us by a warming planet.

The time-frame needed for a sustainability transition is a long one, and may even take several Philippine Development Plans and this was already recognized by the Duterte administration to take four PDPs, when it issued Executive Order No. 5, which identified what the country will be by 2040, which is :

By 2040,the Philippine shall be a prosperous,predominantly middle-class society where no one is poor;our peoples shall live long and healthy lives,be smart and innovative,and shall live in a high-trust society

To augment that 2040 goal, what may be needed to be articulated now in this PDP in 2017 is a clear recognition of our need to adapt to the challenges of a warming planet while taking steps now to transform the way we provide for the energy needs for our economic activities. Confining the challenges of climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction and management to one chapter related to the environment confines this issue to the environmental sector when it fact it should be at the center of our efforts in meeting our over-arching goal of eradicating poverty, thus it should permeate our efforts in agriculture and food production, innovation and science and technology, including even the giving of macroeconomic incentives and other chapters of the PDP.

In the draft chapter in infrastructure development in the PDP, there is an update of our efforts to meet our energy needs but it misses the articulation of a goal in 2040 that all Filipinos can agree to, which will also signal the broad steps that we will undertake now, starting in this PDP. Should the country be 100% renewable-energy based by 2040, like what national climate change advocacy network Aksyon Klima Pilipinas is articulating, or what? That is not clear in this draft PDP.

Kudos however must be given to NEDA though for mentioning in page 17 of the same chapter on infrastructure development about the need for the country to cut by 70% its GHG emissions by 2030 because of the submission that the country made to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in October 2015, the country’s Intended Nationally Determined Contribution or INDC.

NEDA however identified in the same page the challenges towards achieving this 70% target, among which is the need to provide for a low carbon pathway , the high investment cost of carbon capture technologies and finding the balance for power generation between technologies. After the mention of these challenges, there is nothing more after that in the PDP.

If this PDP has internalized a clear sustainability transition goal, there will be steps that will be identified towards addressing the above-mentioned challenges in this PDP and in the succeeding PDPs after that. Having a sustainability transition goal thus provides the needed continuity starting from this PDP and the ones that will succeed it and assures all Filipinos that we will continue to work towards achieving that goal until and up to 2040. We Filipinos haven’t had that kind of continuing or cumulative PDPs, it may be good to have one now.


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