The climate change challenge – Part 2

COMMONSENSE - Marichu A. Villanueva1 - The Philippine Star

As of this writing,Typhoon “Lando” is perhaps heading out of the Philippine area of responsibility. Initially slow moving towards our country, Lando has been causing intermittent rains and thunderstorm last week until it became a full-blown typhoon over the weekend and battered our northern Luzon provinces.

Our weather authorities last Saturday even raised storm signal No.4, just a step away from category 5 “super” typhoon level. But Lando failed to dampen the onset of the political fever in our country last week.

There was literally a mad dash at the gates of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) at the close of office hours at Intramuros, Manila last Friday. It was the end of the five-day filing of certificates of candidacy (COCs) for all those running in the May, 2016 national and local elections.

At the end of filing of COCs, there was a total of 130 candidates for the presidential contest. It is now the job of the seven-man Comelec to separate the chaff from the grain, so to speak, until December 10 as target date to weed out non-qualified candidates.

It was really saddening to note there has been a bizarre mockery of this part of our country’s electoral process of COC filing. Politics may be the favorite national pastime, but it should not be a reason to allow the degradation of our rights of suffrage by attention-depraved clowns and loony bins.

Speaking of attention, it was really disappointing we did not have the usual coverage of our media colleagues at our Kapihan sa Manila Bay last Wednesday when we discussed climate change issues.

We hold our weekly breakfast forum at the Luneta Hotel in T.M. Kalaw, Manila. It is located just one block away from the Comelec head office. I’m not complaining but it is just unfortunate there is not much news value being given to climate change issues by the Philippine media.

While all media were focused on the circus-like filing of COCs at the Comelec, Sen.Loren Legarda sat with us at Kapihan sa Manila Bay and discussed extensively the most urgent concern of all nations on climate change while here in the Philippines, we pay more attention to politics.

Sen. Legarda, a staunch climate change advocate, was the solo guest in our Kapihan last week. I must confess we also invited other senators and government officials but all declined due to the COC filing as reason. It was a good thing I remembered my standing invitation to Sen.Legarda who is no longer running again for any higher office.

I first invited Legarda to be one of my guests at the Kapihan a few weeks ago when we discussed the projected long dry spell in our country due to the El Niño phenomenon. She declined because it coincided with her previously scheduled budget hearing at the Senate. With her term ending in 2019 yet, Legarda is currently the chairman of the powerful Senate committee on finance.

Legarda is not a self-styled advocate for climate change unlike the others who merely pay lip service as pro-environment or “green” leader. In fact, as I’ve said in my column last Friday, Legarda has been doing this pro bono mission as the designated “regional champion” for the United Nations’ International Strategy on Disaster Risk Reduction (ISDR) and Climate Change Adaptation for Asia-Pacific since 2008.

Even when she ran but lost for the second time as vice presidential candidate in May, 2010, Legarda continued to pursue her climate change advocacy despite it not being a popular gut issue to Filipino voters in those days.

I called up the senator last Tuesday night and learned she just flew back to Manila from Cebu. She spoke the previous day before the 12th Energy Ministerial Meeting of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) held in Cebu City. She was invited to address the energy ministers from 21 APEC member-economies.

“Many APEC economies will continue to generate power, using fossil fuel, including coal. It is imperative that the best available technology be deployed. Diversification of energy sources will promote disaster resilience,” Legarda told the APEC ministers. “APEC economies need to work with the private sector to develop clean and energy-efficient, climate-friendly technologies,” she urged them.

However, she acknowledged the vulnerabilities of the energy infrastructure system that usually bears the brunt of disaster impacts, resulting in disruption of economic activities and delivery of public services.

Legarda cited the “crucial lessons” learned by the Philippines in its most recent experience in November, 2013 when we were devastated by super typhoon “Haiyan,” local name “Yolanda.” Total damage to the electricity sector alone, she recalled, was estimated at $155 million and for quite a long time, many households in the Yolanda-devastated areas did not have electricity.

With the technological innovations in energy, Legarda pointed to renewable energy (RE) as the best clean source of power. In the Philippines, she cited, we have some 246,000-megawatts (MW) of untapped RE capacity that are 13 times more than our current installed capacity.

Her advocacy for climate change has perhaps influenced her youngest son, Leandro Leviste to engage in renewable energy projects promoting use of solar power. The 22-year old Lean is founder and president of his own company, Solar Philippines.

His successful projects include the installation of 1.2-MW of solar power that now provides electricity to the SM North in Quezon City and is now connected to the transmission grid in the area that sells excess electricity to Meralco.

We can hurl the climate change challenge to all presidential aspirants to walk the talk to influence the young voters to go green in their own endeavors.

*      *      *

We will have power-packed guests in this week’s Kapihan sa Manila Bay. We have invited Department of Budget and Management (DBM) Sec. Florencio “Butch” Abad and Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) Sec. Joseph Emilio “Jun” Abaya.

Abad and Abaya are stalwarts of President Aquino’s Liberal Party (LP). Combined with talk on politics, we expect very good discussions of government policies at the DBM and at the DOTC, respectively, at our next Kapihan sa Manila Bay.













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