Camarines Sur 2nd District Rep. Luis Raymund “LRay” Villafuerte Jr. has sought the creation of a Department of Climate Change that would work all-year-round to build the country’s capacity to manage climate change, keenly monitor and assess climate change policies and activities, and put in place effective mechanisms even before disasters occur.
He filed House Bill No. 8181 or “the proposed Department of Climate Change Act” to promote a simplified, strategic, systematic, continuous, comprehensive, inclusive, and integrated approach to climate change, and prevent or deter the loss of lives and the social, economic, cultural, and environmental assets of the country.
“The Philippines is described as ‘ground zero for climate disaster,’ as the World Bank identified the country as one of the world’s most ‘vulnerable’ countries in terms of susceptibility to natural disasters attributed to climate change,” the former deputy speaker said.
He noted that, in the 2016 Climate Change Vulnerability Index, the Philippines was ranked as the 13th most climate-vulnerable country.
“Climate change is thus considered a national security as it endangers the safety of the Filipino people, food supply and economic stability,” he said.
According to Villafuerte, statistics show that 62 percent of Filipinos live in coastal municipalities and 50 percent of those 1, 490 municipalities are vulnerable to storms and typhoons.
“At present, the country has two existing legislation concerning climate change, namely the Philippine National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act of 2010, and the Climate Change Act of 2009. However, these laws need to be correlated and strengthened to achieve a common purpose,” he said.
Villafuerte said he filed HB No. 8181 to create “an accountable, independent, focused, and specialized” single government agency that will function not only after the occurrence of disasters, but will also keep an eye on the country’s capacity to manage climate change. The new department shall be led by a Secretary.
He said his proposed Department of Climate Change is also tasked to strengthen the planning, execution, and financing framework for climate change; to enhance leadership and accountability through monitoring, evaluation, and review of climate change policies and activities; and to ensure effective mechanisms even before disaster strikes.
The bill calls for the abolition of the Office of the Civil Defense (OCD) and the Climate Change Commission (CCC), while it places the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical, and Astronomical Services (PAG-ASA) and the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS) under the supervision of the new Department.
The new agency will also integrate the CCC, National Disaster Risk Reduction, People’s Survival Fund (PSFP), Yolanda Recovery and Rehabilitation Efforts, and Office of the Presidential Assistant for Rehabilitation and Recovery (OPARR), Villafuerte said.
“This bill will emphasize the importance of climate change residency and adaptation measures such as building flood defenses and raising the levels of dykes; developing rough-tolerant crops; choosing tree species and forestry practices less vulnerable to storms and fires; stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations, and the like,” Villafuerte said.
“Due to the varying severity and nature of climate impacts in different areas of the country, most adaptation initiatives will be taken at the regional or local levels. It has been shown that well-planned, early adaptation action saves money and lives later,” he stressed.
Under HB 8181, the new Department is mandated to prepare, integrate, coordinate, supervise, and control plans, programs, projects and activities of the government relative to mainstreaming of climate change, DRRM, and climate change adaptation.
Whenever warranted by circumstances, it shall recommend to the President of the Philippines the declaration of a state of national calamity and the lifting thereof.
The new agency is mandated to issue the implementing rules and regulations of the proposed Act within 90 days after its approval.