19 Mar 2016

Commission asks next President to take bold steps to combat climate change
The Climate Change Commission (CCC) wants those running for office in the May elections, especially presidential aspirants, to include in their agenda steps to combat climate change and its far-reaching effects on food security, health, livelihood, and poverty.

Vice chairperson of the CCC, Secretary Emmanuel de Guzman, said on Saturday that environmental issues must be high on the to-do list of the next president, as candidates face off for the second round of presidential debates in Cebu on Sunday. The debate’s topics include climate change.

“Taking decisive action against climate change should be the top priority of the next president. The Philippines is one of the countries most vulnerable to climate change, and it will take good leadership to strengthen the country’s ability to adapt to its impacts,” Secretary de Guzman said.

“Our next set of leaders must recognize the serious concerns associated with climate change. Extreme weather events, such as droughts, El Niño, unusually strong typhoons and storms, have sociopolitical and national security implications. Even our daily existence and activities are affected.”

He emphasized that to effectively address climate change, the next president must harmonize efforts — from the national government down to the barangay level — to prepare communities across the country to cut down risks and put in place programs to make them resilient.

“Our very own survival depends on the actions our new leaders will take. We cannot be complacent,” de Guzman pointed out.

He noted that one step to address the impact of climate change is committing to the implementation of the Paris Agreement, which the Philippines, along with 195 countries, signed in France last December.

The new and legally binding climate change deal prompts developed and developing countries to limit global temperature well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

“The Paris Agreement has set the stage for change and we must not lose the momentum in the fight against climate change, no matter who gets elected as president. It can’t be ‘business as usual’,” de Guzman said.

The CCC, created by virtue of Republic Act No. 9729 or the Climate Change Act of 2009, is tasked to “ensure the mainstreaming of climate change, in synergy with disaster risk reduction, into the national, sectoral and local development plans and programs”.

It is also directed to coordinate and harmonize strategies of national government agencies against climate change, as well as develop and recommend national policies on climate change.

The CCC is chaired by the President.

Last week, the commission launched its Communities for Resilience (CORE) program to promote a risk- and science-based approach to climate change adaptation and mitigation planning among local government units (LGUs). It aims to deepen the understanding of climate and disaster risk by communities and strengthen the technical knowledge and capacity of LGUs in developing the Local Climate Change Action Plan through a series of convergence consultations and trainings.

Through CORE, the CCC intends to help facilitate access of grassroots communities, LGUs and people’s organizations to the People Survival Fund to support their respective climate change adaptation and mitigation programs.

Also last week, the CCC held consultations with representatives from the public, private and non-governmental organizations in Davao City to strengthen the climate change roadmap being finalized by the government.

The consultation-workshop also crafted strategies to integrate the Nationally Determined Contribution Roadmap in various national and local development plans, such as the Philippine Development Plan, Philippine Energy Plan, Local Climate Change Action Plan and Comprehensive Development Plans. PND (ka)

Government remains committed to inclusive growth, says Palace official
The government has shown its commitment to inclusive growth by focusing on the needs of provinces and local government units (LGUs), a Palace official said on Saturday. Undersecretary Manuel Luis Quezon III of the Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Planning Office said President Aquino’s recent visits to four provinces in Luzon this week embodies the administration’s commitment to inclusive growth.

“By focusing on the needs of our provinces and LGUs, the government ensures that progress reaches all,” said Quezon.

“President Aquino has always stood firm in his belief that no Filipino—no matter where they live—should be left behind in our pursuit of progress. This week, beyond his commitments in Metro Manila, the President traveled to Pangasinan, Laguna, Batangas, and Pampanga to inaugurate and turn over projects as well as meet with local leaders and the community,” the Palace official added.

In Pangasinan, the President Aquino attended the turnover of the Department of Trade and Industry’s Shared Services Facilities (SSF).

“Launched in 2013, the project involves setting up common production facilities with the goal of increasing MSME productivity and boosting their competitiveness. Currently, we have 1,681 SSF all over the country, shared among 16,192 MSMEs and 72,864 entrepreneurs. The DTI plans to launch 200 more SSF before the end of the Aquino administration. While in Pangasinan, the President also led the inauguration of a new building in Urdaneta I Central School, constructed with the help of PAGCOR,” said Quezon.

On Wednesday, President Aquino went to Laguna to attend the 30th anniversary celebration of the Center for Agriculture and Rural Development Mutually Reinforcing Institutions (CARD-MRI). In his speech, the President lauded the institution’s contributions, as it continues to benefit MSMEs through microfinance, microinsurance, and other business services. From Laguna, the President proceeded to Batangas to lead the switch-on ceremony for the Calatagan 63.3-Megawatt Solar Farm in Barangay Paraiso.

“The following day, President Aquino met with the Pampanga Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (PDRRMC). During the briefing, officials discussed infrastructure and flood control projects in the area. From P9.41 billion between 2005 and 2010, the infrastructure budget for Pampanga has grown to P16.94 billion between 2011 and 2016. This has funded projects such as the Gapan-San Fernando-Olongapo Road (Phase 2), Lazatin Flyover, San Fernando 1st Green Road, and the Aquino Bypass Road,” Quezon said.

“Also this week, the President attended the 7th General Assembly of the League of Provinces of the Philippines, where he spoke about how the landscape of local governance, and how it has changed under Daang Matuwid. Among the examples he cited are the present availability of funds for LGU projects. Afterward, the President attended a necrological service for former Senate President Jovito Salonga, whose services to the nation are well remembered by Filipinos,” Quezon added.

“Just yesterday, the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) announced that our poverty rate had dropped to 26.3% in the first semester of 2015 —the lowest since 2009. As President Aquino said, the goal has always been to leave the country in a better state than in 2010. Now, as we face another crossroads, we trust that our voters will choose a leader who will continue our upward trajectory,” Quezon said. PND (jm)

Government already preparing for next week’s Lenten season observance
The government is readying the preparations for the influx of travelers who will travel back to the province’s as the country observes the Lenten season starting this weekend, the Palace said on Saturday.

In a radio interview, Undersecretary Manuel Quezon III advised the public to always ensure their safety while traveling particularly against the extreme summer heat that may cause heat stroke.

“In fact, first of all from health’s point of view, bago nagsimula ang portion natin napakinggan ko na pinaguusapan nga ninyo nagsimula na nga officially ang summer at talagang mainit ang panahon,” Quezon told dzRB Radyo ng Bayan when asked about the government’s preparations for the Lenten season.

“It’s important na pag-aralan natin ang mga paraan para ma-avoid ang heat stroke, to make sure na palaging mayroon tayong dalang tubig at siguraduhin na mga baby at mga nakakatanda sa atin ay hind ma-expose masyado at mahirapan lalo na kung mahaba ang biyahe.”

Quezon said the government will start to implement “Oplan Semana Santa” in which government agencies will be inspecting airports, seaports and bus terminals to ensure the safety and convenience of people returning to the provinces.

The Palace official asked the public to cooperate with authorities and report any hurdle or inconvenience to their travel so police and government agencies could respond.

“So alerto lang po kung mayroon kayong napapansin na nakaabala sa inyo, ibanggit agad sa PNP, sa Coast Guard, sa mga tumutulong sa ating kababayan sa paliparan at sa mga bus terminals,” he said. PND (as)

Palace encourages public to participate tonight’s ‘Earth Hour’
Malacanang appealed to the public to participate in this year’s Earth Hour aimed at lessening human carbon footprint that impacts heavily on the environment.

The Earth Hour will be observed tonight (March 19), and it will be the Earth Hour’s 10th anniversary since it was initiated by the World Wide Fund for Nature or WWF.

“It will be from exactly 8:30 p.m.until 9:30 p.m.. So, sana po mag-cooperate tayong lahat at makisali dito,” Undersecretary Manuel Quezon III said in a radio interview on Saturday.

“This is to symbolize our commitment to lower our carbon footprint and to lower our use of energies so that we can have a sustainable future. The Philippines will be joining 117 nations around the globe to mark Earth Hour.”

Quezon also responded to the call of former US Vice President Al Gore who asked the government to stop its dependence on coal-fired power plants that pollutes the environment.

The Palace official said they appreciate the point of view of Gore noting that in fact, the government continues to widen the country’s renewable sources of energy.

For instance, Quezon said the President joined the inauguration of a solar-powered plant in Calatagan, Batangas this week.

The country also has a very healthy energy mix, about 70 percent of Philippine energy is produced by sustainable or low-polluting sources including geothermal and hydropower, Quezon stressed, adding that the country’s renewable energy sector such as wind and solar continues to expand.

But he acknowledged that the Philippines is facing an energy dilemma that is not comparable to most developed nations like the US.

“Our dilemma is mataas pa rin ang presyo ng enerhiya at may mga lugar kung saan hindi pa sapat ang supply ng kuryente at ang mahalaga dito ang konsepto ng baseload,” he noted.

Baseload is the energy produced by the power plants during peak hours or all the time.

“In other words, you cannot have let’s say solar power na useful siya habang may araw kaya lang pag gabi hindi mo na magagamit unless you set up large battery farms which we do not have,” he explained.

This means that in order for the country to develop, the government must produce sufficient and cheap electricity that will power factories, offices and households, he said.

“So, we would have to invest — as we are investing, the private sector is putting up mga coal-fired plants but let’s point out na ‘yung mga planta na ito ay mas malinis kumpara let’s say about 10 years ago kasi nagkakaroon ng technology,” according to Quezon.

“Everyone of course will be keeping in mind.., ang pananaw na dapat talaga papalawakin natin ang malinis na enerhiya but kailangan din nating ibalanse ito sa development ng Pilipinas.” PND (as)

Palace praises local authorities’ response to $81-million Bangladesh bank heist
The Philippines has shown the world that it is a responsible member of the banking community with its response to the $81-million bank heist in Bangladesh recently, in which the stolen money ended up in a Philippine bank and casinos, a Palace official said.

In a radio interview Saturday, Undersecretary Manuel Quezon III said the Anti-Money Laundering Council, through the Office of the SolGen (Solicitor General), filed ex parte petition for the issuance of a freeze order with the Court of Appeals against RCBC bank accounts that received inward remittance totaling $81 million under the account name William S. Go.

When the money arrived in the Philippines, Quezon told dzRB Radyo ng Bayan that Philippine authorities sounded the alarm bells for a thorough investigation, he said.

Other countries have been cooperating and there have been reports that AMLC is working with the Federal Bureau of Investigation of the United States.

“So definitely we are working with everyone to ensure there is transparency and para malaman ang talagang nangyari at paano ito mapre-prevent na mangyari ulit,” he said.

“We should be aware that sineseryoso ito ng Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, pinapakita ng AMLC na ginagampanan nito ang kanyang trabaho. The Senate is holding hearings in aid of legislation and in fact the Bangko Sentral and the BIR have been giving their recommendations.”

And as the present Congress closes, the groundwork is being laid for future reforms that will further improve the system, the Palace official said.

For those who fear about the impact of the controversy to the country’s financial system, Quezon made an assurance that the government will hold accountable those who are involved in the heist.

“I think you can see from… kahit sa media coverage abroad and coverage here, siyempre may mananagot na mga opisyales, lalo na doon sa bangkong apektado at ‘yun nga ang inimbestiga ngayon but on the whole, you can see that the system is working,” he said.

“In other words, na-expose at inimbestigahan, nahuli at may ginagawang action pagdating sa nakaka-abalang kwento na paano ba nakuha ang pera na ito mula sa isang central bank, at pinadala sa iba’t ibang bahagi ng mundo.”

With regards to calls to ease the Bank Secrecy Law in the country, Quezon said that while the BSP wants a stricter rules in the banking system, it hasn’t come up with specific recommendations it wants.

The Palace will wait on the recommendations by the BSP, and by Congress about specific actions on how to ease the Bank Secrecy Law, he said. PND (as)