Solon wants climate change dept created

A LAWMAKER from the House of Representatives has proposed the creation of a Department of Climate Change that will harmonize and strengthen all national disaster risk reduction efforts in the Philippines, which has been described by the international media  as “ground zero for climate disaster.”

In filing his House Bill 6131, Camarines Sur Rep. LRAy Villafuerte said the government could not   fully achieve President Rodrigo Duterte’s  high and inclusive growth agenda unless the country was best  equipped to deal with the erratic weather patterns triggered by climate change.

This, since every destructive  typhoon season leads to losses equivalent to two percent of Gross Domestic Product  and requires post-disaster reconstruction efforts costing an equivalent of another two percent of GDP.

GDP refers to the measure of an economy adopted by the United States in 1991, and referred to in the Philippines as the total market value of goods and services produced by workers and capital within a nation’s borders during a given period (usually one year). 

“This puts the  Philippines’ GDP at least four percent in the hole each year from tropical storms. Clearly, economic progress is unattainable if the country has to constantly deal with mounting losses in productivity, damage to critical infrastructure, damage to food crops and death due to climate change,” Villafuerte said in filing his bill.

Villafuerte’s HB 6131 is aimed to reduce the country’s carbon footprint, the first being HB 4739 that aims to impose a climate tax of P1 per one kilogram of CO2 emission in the electricity consumption  of residential or household consumers exceeding 60 kilowatthours  to generate funds for projects that aim to make the country more resilient to the devastating effects of climate change. 

Villafuerte said climate change was now considered a national security risk because it endangers public safety and threatens the sustainability of the country’s food supply and economic stability.   

HB 6131, he said, seeks to create a single specialized government agency—the DCC—that will function not only after the occurrence of disaster, but will work all-year-round to build the country’s capacity and management of climate change;  strengthen the planning, execution and financing framework for climate change;  enhance leadership and accountability through monitoring, evaluation and review of climate change policies and activities; and  ensure effective mechanisms even before disaster strikes. 

“Climate change and disaster risk reduction and management are closely interrelated and an effective DRRM will enhance adaptive capacity to climate change, climate variability and extreme climate events,” he said in his bill’s explanatory note. 

Villafuerte said his proposal, once enacted, shall integrate or put under one roof the Climate Change Commission, National Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council, People’s Survival Fund, Yolanda Recovery and Rehabilitation Efforts, and the Office of the Presidential Assistant for Rehabilitation and Recovery.  

Laws addressing climate change, such as the Philippine National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act of 2010 and the Climate Change Act of 2009,  also need to be strengthened and harmonized, Villafuerte said. 

“Under the principle of administrative convenience, the efficiency of delivery of frontline services is enhanced through the creation of a full-pledged department which is dedicated to an area of service within its primary competence,” he said.

He recalled that the World Bank had designated the Philippines’ expanse of 7,107 islands as one of the world’s most “vulnerable” countries in terms of susceptibility to natural disasters attributed to climate change. 

Moreover, in the 2016 Climate Change Vulnerability Index, the Philippines was ranked 13th most climate-vulnerable country, Villafuerte said. 

On average, about 20 tropical cyclones enter Philippine space each year, with eight or nine making landfall, Villafuerte noted.

The deadliest among these weather disturbances in recent history was Typhoon “Haiyan,” known locally as Typhoon “Yolanda,” which was responsible for more than 6,300 lost lives, over four million displaced citizens, and $2 billion in damage in 2013, the lawmaker said.

 “Over the past decade, these tropical storms have struck the nation more often and more severely, scientists believe, because of climate change,” Villafuerte  added.

Topics: House of Representatives , Camarines Sur Rep. LRAy Villafuerte , House Bill 6131 , Department of Climate Change , national disaster risk reduction
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