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#Halalan2016: Let the GREEN win!

Climate change has become a major concern, not only in the Philippines, but all over the globe. Through the past decades, it has claimed thousands of lives, polluted many cities, destroyed natural resources, caused economic drop, and even prompted conflicts. There is no doubt; this concern should be a priority.

We only have few more days before we cast our votes for the National Election. By now, some of you may already have presidential bets; but for those who are still undecided, take time to read this and ask yourself: “Am I voting for the right person?”

Top of the list
Each candidate has his or her own plan of action. As voters, we should also consider the presidentiables’ agenda for climate change and disaster preparedness. Why? Here are the main reasons:

1. Our country belongs to the V20.
The top 20 countries, which are most vulnerable to climate change impacts, also referred to as the “V20”, include Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Maldives, Tanzania, Bangladesh, Ghana, Nepal, East Timor, Barbados, Kenya, Tuvalu, Bhutan, Kiribati, Rwanda, Vanuatu, Costa Rica, Madagascar, Saint Lucia, Vietnam and yes, the Philippines.

These are low and middle-income, small and developing countries that usually experience the adverse effects of climate change, such as extreme drought and destructive typhoons.

2. We have a commitment.
In line with the celebration of Earth Day (April 22, 2016), the Philippines signed the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Ramon Paje represented the country in the covenant signing held in New York.

This marked our commitment to support the United Nations and other countries in fighting climate change by limiting the warming of the earth below 1.5 degrees Celsius. In a press release of the Climate Change Commission (CCC), it stated that the Philippines pledged a 70% emission reduction by 2030.

3. Philippines is renewable-rich.
During his visit to our country last March, Former US Vice President and Founder of Climate Reality Project, Al Gore, highlighted that the Philippines is rich in renewable energy, which is naturally regenerated or replenished over a short period of time. Some are derived directly from the sun like thermal or photochemical energy.

Other forms of renewable energy are wind, hydropower, geothermal and tidal.
Using renewable energy will help in combating the impacts of climate change because these do not produce greenhouse gases unlike fossil fuels.

Meanwhile, Oxfam has mentioned in one of their studies that the Philippines is the world’s second largest producer of geothermal power and has the largest potential for wind power in South-East Asia.

With these, our president-to-be should also know how to maximize our natural energy sources. Not only could this help reduce pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, it could also create more jobs.

4. Earthquakes can hit us anytime.
Though volcanic activities and ground shaking are not directly associated to climate change, part of being a “green” candidate is being able to create stronger disaster preparedness plans. Aside from an average of 19 to 20 tropical cyclones each year, our country also needs to be prepared for earthquakes.

Unlike tropical cyclones, we cannot forecast when and where an earthquake will occur. It can strike any location, at any time. Being one of the countries situated in the Pacific Ring of Fire, the Philippines is highly prone to strong quakes.

We will never forget the magnitude 7.2 earthquake that shook Central Visayas on October 2013. The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS) already warned that an earthquake with the same magnitude, now dubbed as “The Big One”, is possible in Metro Manila and nearby provinces.

A Quick Look at the Presidentiables’ Agenda

Five candidates are vying to be next President of the Republic of the Philippines. What are their views on climate action and disaster preparedness?

Grace Poe
• Establish a separate, full-time, cabinet-level disaster resilience and emergency management agency, which will serve as the focal agency for integrated disaster resilience, climate change adaptation and mitigation and emergency management.
• Provide technical assistance and share good practices in order to capacitate LGUs to integrate climate change and disaster risk reduction management plans into their respective local development plans.
• Make full use of the People’s Survival Fund and establish transparency and accountability mechanisms in the selection and monitoring of projects.
• Accelerate the exploration, development, and promotion of renewable energy sources in order to reduce harmful emissions.
• Support the modernization of disaster mitigation agencies to improve their forecast and monitoring capabilities following the passage of the PAGASA Modernization Bill.
• Clarify and provide guidelines on the roles of local government units and national government during disasters to avoid confusion and overlapping of responsibilities.

Miriam Defensor-Santiago
• Invest in productivity-enhancing infrastructure to boost agriculture.
• Invest in irrigation and water-impounding facilities in order to allow more planting cycles, and to minimize the impact of El Niño and La Niña.
• Finance programs that would expand the use of new seed varieties, and modern technology in order to increase farm yield.
• Invest in research and technology.
• Lead the creation of an independent disaster risk reduction and management agency to enhance the capacity of government and communities to prevent, mitigate, prepare for, respond to, and recover from the impact of disasters.
• Invest in community-based disaster preparedness programs.
• Implement student-led disaster preparedness education in schools.
• Create citizen-led hazard mapping and risk reduction.
• Separate auditing of international aid.
• Amend EPIRA law.
• Review and reconsider the privatization of the energy industry under the EPIRA and see if it contradicts constitutional provisions on ownership of natural resources and Philippine obligations under the international law of human rights.
• Fast-track and wholeheartedly implement renewable energy policies.

Mar Roxas
• Support environmental protection.

• Reduce greenhouse gases to mitigate climate change.

• Explore natural gas and diversify country’s energy mix.

• Harness available energy sources in strict compliance with the highest standards of safety for communities and the environment to fuel the development of important sectors such as manufacturing, which can generate stable, reliable and long-term sources of income for Filipinos.

• Support EPIRA law.

Jejomar Binay
• Raise people’s awareness and understanding on climate change.

• Pass the Sustainable Forest Management Act into law.

• Formulate policies/programs that would strengthen the national government and the resilience of local government units (LGUs) to address issues on climate change.

• Strengthen or reform the Building Code for disaster-resilient infrastructures.

• In schools, disaster mitigation and preparedness must be included in the educational curriculum.

• Secure financing schemes for climate change projects.

• Ensure the implementation of the Flood Management Master Plan for Metro Manila and surrounding areas.

Rody Duterte
• Amend Philippine environmental policy to institutionalize climate change adaptation measures, apart from the climate change law.

• Strictly implement environmental and land use laws. Food crop areas should be maintained.

• Develop a climate adaptation fund per region to enable adaptation in agriculture and food production, which are vulnerable to climate change.

• Implement climate-smart technologies, such as rainwater impoundment and collection regulations.

• Pursue a policy that will prevent the Philippines from being a significant contributor to greenhouse gases even as we industrialize.

RECAP: Presidential Debate
One of the main topics covered during the 2nd Presidential Debate held in Cebu was climate change. Poe, Roxas and Duterte shared their thoughts on it. (Santiago was not present)

Question: “Nag-commit po ang Pilipinas sa United Nations na babawasan natin ang polusyon na hanggang 70% by 2030. Pero inaprubahan ni Pangulong Aquino ang maraming coal-fired plants para sa energy security natin. Paano natin matutupad ang ating commitment sa UN habang tumataas naman ang dependence natin sa coal para sa ating energy security?”

(The Philippines committed to reduce emissions down to 70% by 2030. However, President Aquino still approved numerous coal-fired plants for our energy security. How can we ensure our commitment to UN when we are still dependent on coal?)

Poe: “…sa tingin ko ang una nating gawin ay ilikas ang 13 million six hundred na mga residente dun sa mga high risk areas. Yun ang una, prevention. Pangalawa, isipin natin ang mga magsasaka natin. (I think we have to evacuate those who are in high-risk areas. Prevention is priority. Next, we need to think about our farmers.)

“…drought ngayon, kailangan natin ang drought resistant na pananim para naman patuloy ang buhay nila. Kailangan tayo magkaroon ng mga dams, mga water entrapment facilities, mga flood control projects para naman maligtas natin ang ating mga kababayan. (We need drought-resistant plants for our farmers so they can sustain their livelihood. We also need dams, water-entrapment facilities and flood-control projects to ensure the safety of the people.)

Roxas: “Well, napakahalaga na simulan natin ang transition towards clean energy dahil tayo isa sa pinaka-tinatamaan ng epekto ng global warming… Importante na simulan natin ang pagtungo sa clean energy.” (It is very important to start transitioning towards clean energy because we are highly affected by global warming.)

“‘Pag ako’y naging pangulo, bibigyan ko ng insentiba yung natural gas, yung mga iba pang clean energy tulad ng geo, tulad ng hydro para yung ating energy mix, which right now is 50% coal and oil ay mabawasan ng sa ganon mas maraming malinis na energy ang gagamitin natin.” (If I become the president, I will give incentives to natural gas and other forms of clean energy such as geo and hydro. In that way, our energy mix, which is right now 50% coal and oil, will be lessened and more clean energy will be utilized.)

Duterte: “We only contribute a third of the footprints – carbon footprints, so very little. And yet, we are a growing country, we need to industrialize, we need energy. Ang sabi ko, susunod tayo,(I said we are going to cooperate), but you know even climate change – climate change does not have to be discussed. It is here. El Niño is the climate change. Kaya ning mga lupa mo maski saan-saan,(The lands in most areas), they are cracking up, even in Luzon. That’s pollution.

Your climate change is already there. So what we should do is to do remedial measures, pero huwag lang tayo, because we have noticed that those who are really into heavy industries are the first world countries.”

The Green Cards
The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF– Philippines) posted on their Facebook account about the Green Score Cards from the Green Thumb Coalition. These results were from surveys, platforms and background of the candidates in terms of agriculture, biodiversity, climate, energy, and development issues.

Be a Green Voter!
The future of our planet lies on how our leaders protect the environment. Think, assess and choose your President carefully. It doesn’t matter what color your bet represents; let’s go for green agendas!