House panel approves disaster and climate emergency declaration

Published November 24, 2020, 3:56 PM

by Charissa Luci-Atienza 

The House Committee on Disaster Resilience gave in Tuesday (Nov. 29) to the call of Albay 2nd District Rep. Jose Maria Sarte Salceda to declare a disaster and climate emergency to seek “broader international climate justice and local resilience.”

In a virtual hearing, the House panel, chaired by Leyte Rep. Lucy Torres-Gomez approved Salceda’s House Resolution No. 535, which seeks to declare 2020 as a Disaster and Climate Emergency awareness year.


“We will eventually defeat COVID-19, as we have beaten all other pandemics. But the climate emergency will be here to stay. Unless we act now to make our communities safer, and to seek international climate justice, we will suffer the long-term consequences of this crisis,” Salceda said before the panel’s adoption of his resolution.

Salceda, chairperson of the House Ways and Means Committee and co-chairperson of the House Defeat COVID-19 Ad Hoc Committee’s Economic Stimulus and Recovery Cluster, thanked his colleagues for passing his resolution, even as he described his proposed declaration of a disaster and climate emergency as “the necessary first of many steps to secure broader international climate justice and local resilience.”

He said a whole-of-governemnt, whole-of-society, and whole-of nation policy response is needed to halt, reduce, reverse, address, and adapt to the impacts, consequences, and causes of a disaster and climate change emergency that is being experienced by the Philippines.

“By declaring a climate emergency, the Philippines can leverage its position as an emerging market and a potent labor source for new industrialization to pursue an official foreign policy of international climate justice,” he said in defending his resolution.

“The country can also use its domestic policies as moral leverage in pursuing financial claims for rehabilitation and climate-proofing. The Philippines is doing its best to cooperate in the global push to reduce reliance on emissions-heavy fossil fuels and other non-renewable sources,” Salceda added.

During the hearing, he said the declaration of a climate emergency will strengthen the country’s leverage to seek concessions from heavily industrialized economies.

“Small island countries are already pursuing legal action on the matter of climate reparations. The Philippines should consider making amicable manifestations, if not outright joining such suits,” Salceda said.

“On our own, however, we must take concrete steps to ensure that while we pursue climate justice, we will be able to protect our own communities,” he added.

Salceda said his resolution calls for “climate and disaster responsive”-national and local governmental budget allocations and expenditures.

“The implication is that all government expenditures must now have resilience and disaster preparedness in mind,” Salceda said.

“And, I know it works. When I was Governor of Albay, our entire budget was directed, in one way or another, towards climate and disaster resilience. Health, education, and social spending, for which we received national and international attention, for pioneering our version of universal health care and universal free college tuition in state schools, were all ultimately towards disaster preparedness,” the former Albay governor said.

HR No. 535 urges the House of Representatives to ensure the full integration and convergence of disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation and mitigation efforts through the passage of the Department of Disaster Resilience (DDR) bull as an urgent policy response.

Under the resolution, the Lower Chamber is expected to conduct continuous inquiries on the measures being implemented by all concerned national agencies to address the impact of disasters and climate change on the fundamental rights of Filipinos. (Charissa Luci-Atienza) ###