Philippine Statement at the Joint High Level Segment of the 18th Session of the Conference of Parties of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change
Delivered by H.E. Mary Ann Lucille L. Sering,
Secretary and Vice-Chair of the Climate Change Commission, Philippines
Doha, Qatar, 6 December 2012
Mr. President, Excellencies and other heads of delegations, Good Morning.
First of all, on behalf of the Philippine delegation, I would like to express our sincerest gratitude in the outpouring of sympathy for our country expressed in various halls in this venue. Please know that we appreciate these gestures and it has somehow eased our anxieties. At least 3 of our lead negotiators have families living in areas directly hit by the typhoon including myself. As we try to focus in our work here, we cannot avoid being distracted as our hearts and minds are back home. But somehow, there is glimmer of hope that our plight, although unwanted, will trigger action here in Doha.
Super Typhoon Bopha is the strongest and 16th typhoon to hit our country this year. It is considered a “unique storm due to its intensity and its extremely southern track”, directly hitting an area where storms are not normally occurring, causing widespread damage. The Philippines is visited by an average of 19 to 20 typhoons annually. And every time a typhoon hits, we evacuate our people at least 19 to 20 times in a year. To prepare for typhoon Bopha, we evacuated close to 50 Thousand people, bringing them to makeshift shelters. The cost therefore does not start when the typhoon hits, it starts before and continues after. We have seen how our cost of damage have increased 18th fold in the last 20 years, a manifestation of increasing intensities of our typhoons. Diverting some of our financing intended for basic services such as education and health to typhoon recovery and rehabilitation. In 2009 alone and with just 2 typhoons, the cost of damage was equivalent to 2-3% of GDP. 2-3% GDP is huge for a country like the Philippines.
To all of us who are physically here, not just the Philippine delegation but also the 200 thousand Filipinos here working in Doha and to the almost 2 Million Filipinos working in the Middle East and Africa, one way or the other we are affected by these typhoons. Their contribution to our economy is significant. They are our unsung heroes. Being here is our contribution to them. That their government is trying to do everything to keep their families safe.
But we know that our government alone cannot address climate change. That is why we engage in this process, believing that what will be agreed will be respected and implemented. That we are motivated by accepted science. That we are so inter-connected, that the suffering of one is a concern to others; hence we respect our common but differentiated responsibility. That we are, most of all, guided not only because is it moral to do so, but because it is our obligation to do so.
Year by year, for the last 18 years, we meet. We decide on consensus. So, we defer for the next year issues we cannot agree on. It is what it is. But we cannot anymore afford to be doing business as usual. Never before have brackets been so deplored. Climate Change is not something that we should be flirting with. For us and for other poorer countries, this is real. Yes, this is true for bigger economies too, but the biggest difference is our capacity to respond.
Every speech delivered on this floor has expressed urgency, providing more evidence about the impacts and yet the document shows otherwise. And every year, we notice selective amnesia from countries that demand so much but are not doing much. Some seem to forget that they signed an agreement, as if we do not understand their English. But we also recognize the support of some rich countries that are real in their commitments and even pledged to raise more. Support, however, for national adaptation plans should be inclusive to all developing countries.
For the last four years, our country has responded by strengthening our institutions to respond to climate change. Our President, Benigno Aquino III, has increased the budget for climate change starting this year and even created a cabinet cluster to address impacts of climate change. Indeed, climate change is no longer just an environmental issue, its cross-sectoral impact is now recognized. This year, we passed a law creating a People’s Survival Fund with a Board chaired by our Department of Finance. Domestic financing will primarily fund climate change adaptation and disaster reduction plans of local governments, and improve their absorptive capacity.
We are doing our best but our domestic financing is just not enough. As it is, our national budget sets aside 40% for debt servicing alone. Our government is left with just 60% to spend for basic services. Our status as a borrower may have improved internationally, but we have to be cautious in accessing financing that will add more burdens and limit our capacity to alleviate poverty.
The world now knows on how debt can cripple an economy. We are so inter-connected that when one big country catches flu, a lot of countries also sneezes.
In our context, climate change is not a just flu. It can cause an epidemic. To us, it is a matter of survival, because when you’re dead, you’re dead. There is no recovering from that.
That is why we want to see a higher level of ambition in reduction greenhouse gases, because even if we improve our capacity to address typhoons, we are very much unprepared to address increase in temperature especially on our agriculture and fisheries. Based on our latest statistics, the contribution of fisheries has declined, with our experts partly attributing it to ocean warming. Our people rely on fish as major source of protein. The over all contribution of agriculture to our GDP has also declined, partly because of losses caused by typhoons. The impact of increase in temperature caused by increase in accumulation of gases is like killing us softly.
Our lifestyle, even with our growing middle class, remains modest. Our emission despite improvement in our economy remains miniscule compared to other countries. Yet, we continue to embark on efforts in protecting our forests. We do not just rely on them for their carbon potential but also their non-carbon potential. We continually engage our indigenous peoples, recognizing their role in protecting our forests. Despite not being a major emitter, we are nonetheless preparing ourselves so we can contribute, after all this is a global issue, requiring an honest to goodness based on reason and science global cooperation. But what I know about the globe is that it was created balanced by God; that it was not created one-sided. That we all get our warmth under the same sun.
But how come, others who agreed to cooperate can just pull out and not be asked to give comparative actions? Is it as simple as that? We know that we are not consistent in meeting the reduction of gases as science demands. That is why the Kyoto Protocol must guarantee a mechanism that further increase reduction of emissions. To include all developed countries not part of the Kyoto Protocol under LCA.
We have to be forward looking because our past efforts were proven to be insufficient hence, the second commitment period must happen. And hot air cannot be used as offsets because they do not respond to what science demands. Our concern is not yesterday, our concern is today, tomorrow and thereafter. Our concern is time is really no longer on our side.
Here in Doha, we need to have an effective and enhanced implementation of the convention that will produce concrete results and in an integrated manner - including effective action on adaptation, enhanced flows of financing and technology transfer to developing countries, and more operational capacity building activities.
We remain committed to the objectives of the convention and we hope that the COP Presidency will lead us to the rightful path.
We truly appreciate your sympathy but we do not need mercy because even if the Philippines have fallen victim this early, we will all eventually become victims of climate change. We do not wish to happen to anyone what happened to our country, but these can happen to you. And hopefully these events, not only in the Philippines but in other countries as well, will serve as constant reminder that the time to act has long started. We can no longer afford any delay. This is not for us only. This is for our youth, the current generation and the future.
Thank you very much, Mr. President.