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Creation of climate change department pushed

MANILA, Philippines — Camarines Sur Rep. Luis Raymund Villafuerte yesterday proposed the creation of a Department of Climate Change to harmonize and strengthen all national disaster risk reduction efforts in the country.

In filing Bill 6131, Villafuerte said the government would not be able to achieve President Duterte’s high and inclusive growth agenda “unless the country is best equipped to deal with the erratic weather patterns triggered by climate change.”

He added that the international media has described the country as “ground zero for climate disaster.”

The lawmaker emphasized that every destructive typhoon season costs the GDP at least four percent – about two percent in losses to gross domestic product (GDP) and requires another two percent for post-disaster reconstruction efforts.

 “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 stressed.

Climate change, he added, is now considered a national security risk because it endangers public safety and threatens the sustainability of food supply and economic stability. 

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Villafuerte explained that his proposed law seeks the creation of a single specialized government agency that will function not only after the occurrence of disaster, but will work all year round to build the country’s capacity to manage climate change.

 “Climate change and disaster risk reduction and management (DRRM) are closely interrelated and an effective DRRM will enhance adaptive capacity to climate change, climate variability and extreme climate events,” he said.

His proposal, Villafuerte pointed out, aims to integrate or put under one roof the Climate Change Commission (CCC), National Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council, People’s Survival Fund (PSF), Yolanda recovery and rehabilitation efforts and the Office of the Presidential Assistant for Rehabilitation and Recovery (OPARR).  

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, he added.

He recalled that the World Bank has 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 country was ranked 13th most climate-vulnerable country, with an average of 20 tropical cyclones entering Philippine waters each year, with eight or nine making landfall, he said.

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 damages in 2013, he noted.

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