In face of climate emergency, the Philippines’ funding for its response remains paltry

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 21) — Even if the Philippines is among the countries expected to be hardest hit by climate change, the government is not giving enough funding to projects that would mitigate its effects or would better equip the country against it.

Data from the Climate Change Commission (CCC) obtained by CNN Philippines even show that the government tried to cut spending on climate change mitigation and adaptation programs.

Proposed funding for these programs in 2018 dropped sharply to ₱47.89 billion from ₱187.55 billion in the 2017 spending bill. Congress, however, overturned this proposal — increasing funding for climate change mitigation and adaptation to ₱276.09 billion in the final fiscal plan from ₱204.59 billion in 2017.

Despite Congress’ rejection of the administration's slashing of the budget allotted for climate change, it still proposed a measly ₱63.6-billion budget for this year — just 1.6 percent of the ₱3.757-trillion budget for 2019.

The CCC has yet to finish calculating the proposed funding for climate change mitigation and adaptation programs for next year.

“Kulang tayo ng pagpopondo [We lack funding,]” CCC Commissioner Rachel Herrera told CNN Philippines. “You might have very good plans, but for you to have the support and the technical capacity, you have to have funding.”

Funding for programs targeted towards climate change is crucial for a country like the Philippines, which stands among nations most vulnerable to its effects, despite hardly contributing to greenhouse gas emissions which cause the warming of the planet.

READ: Socioeconomic planning chief warns climate change will affect food security in PH 

But the budget for these projects and programs have always represented just a fraction of the national budget.

Ever since the government began requiring agencies to identify their climate change-related programs in 2015, funding for these only enjoyed — at most — seven percent of the fiscal plan.

Among the problems behind the puny funding for climate actions, CCC communications officer Ian Soqueño said, is that they could only do so much to influence the budget-making process.

Wala kaming say sa budgets nila eh. We can only suggest na, oh ito ‘yung ina-advocate natin, ito ang priorities natin, ito ang kailangan. But how to translate that into actual items in their budget, sila ang may say,” Soqueño told CNN Philippines.

[Translation: We do not have a say in their budgets. We can only suggest that this is what we advocate for, these are our priorities, this is what we need. But how to translate that into actual items in their budget, they have the final say.]

Since 2015, the Public Works department always had the largest funding for climate change projects and programs, while the Agriculture and Environment departments followed at second and third, respectively.

Other government agencies, like the Finance, Foreign Affairs and Trade departments have also allocated budget for climate change programs, albeit at smaller portions.

Soqueño said that while government agencies do have a sense of urgency when it comes to climate change, there is still a need for them to understand the phenomenon better so they can identify the proper response.

He added climate change funding is small partly due to government agencies’ failure to properly tag projects enumerated in their budgets as responses to the phenomenon.

‘Make budget 100% for climate change’

The world is taking action to lower carbon emissions and prevent global temperatures from rising by another 1.5 degrees Celsius. The Philippines has also committed to this, as a signatory to the Paris Agreement.

Just how committed remains in question, though, with President Rodrigo Duterte downplaying global efforts to fight climate change.

READ: Duterte downplays climate change efforts, calls conferences ‘waste of time’ 

But the country is already feeling the effects of climate change, according to the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA).

In a mid-range emissions scenario, PAGASA expects temperatures to rise by 0.9 degrees Celsius to 1.1 degrees Celsius nationwide by next year, and then by 1.8 degrees Celsius to 2.2 degrees Celsius in 2050. Maximum temperatures can even go higher than 35 degrees Celsius.

A mid-range emissions scenario is characterized by a world that is experiencing rapid economic growth, with a population set to peak mid-century and then falling after, with more efficient technology being introduced and energy generation is balanced across all sources.

PAGASA also expects rain to be less during the months of March, April and May, but an increase in rainfall from June to November when the southwest monsoon, also known as Habagat, starts blowing. It also expects the northeast monsoon, also known as Amihan, to bring more rains on the easternmost areas of the country.

“Decisively dealing now with climate change is key to ensuring sustainable development, poverty eradication and safeguarding economic growth. Scientific assessments indicate that the cost of inaction now will be more costly in the future,” the weather bureau said in its report on the potential impacts of climate change on the Philippines.

READ: PH climate policies compatible for a 2°C global temperature increase – report 

“Why should we not make the entire budget for climate change?” Herrera said. “When you think about the problem of climate change, it will impact all sectors. Sana lahat ng programa, [All programs should] to the extent possible, eh may [have a] climate lens.”