Congress urged: Go for strategic – not the ‘business as usual’ – envi projects in 2013 budget

CONGRESS MUST DEVIATE from the “business as usual (BAU) mode” in funding environment-related undertakings and instead finance bold, concrete and strategic programs and projects in the proposed 2013 national budget, especially those for climate change adaptation (CCA) and disaster risk reduction (DRR).

This was stressed today by development non-government organization (NGO) La Liga Policy Institute (La Liga), convening organization of the Alternative Budget Initiative Environment Cluster (ABI-ENVI) consisting 60 citizens’ groups advocating increased social spending for environment sustainability.

The House of Representatives on Thursday approved on second reading the P2.006-trillion General Appropriations Bill (GAB) to finance President Noynoy Aquino’s midterm development agenda expenditures. Malacañang has referred to it as an ‘Empowerment Budget,’ which deepens the Aquino administration’s commitment to its Social Contract with the Filipino People.’

“Our country has time and again been battered by typhoons, floods and other calamities, but the government’s response has been largely in the realm of reactive, cute, easy and good media-copy undertakings such as relief operations, cleaning-and-greening physical spaces and the like,” La Liga Managing Director Roland Cabigas said.

He noted the following statistics on disasters that hit the country recently, based on reports by the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC): - Tropical Storm “Sendong” (December 15-18, 2011) affected 131,618 families in 866 barangays across 60 municipalities and 9 cities covering 13 provinces, with total damages amounting to PhP 2.1 billion, including PhP 1.4 B in infrastructure and PhP 700 million in agriculture; - Typhoon “Gener” (July 31-August 7, 2012) affected 211,185 families in 1,266 barangays across 152 municipalities and 28 cities covering 35 provinces, where total damages amounted to PhP 1.1 B including PhP 690 M in infrastructure and PhP 411 M in agriculture; and - Southwest Monsoon “Habagat” (August 6-10, 2012) - affected 825,018 families in 2,498 barangays in 173 municipalities and 36 cities covering 16 provinces, with total damages amounting to PhP 2.3 B including PhP 639 M in infrastructure and PhP 1.6 B in agriculture.

He likewise took note of the following climate-and-disaster projections and warnings: - the DOST-PAGASA’s 2011 study entitled “Climate Change in the Philippines

detailing climate projections for the country by 2020 and by 2050 pointing to three major findings: a) the dry season will get drier; b) the wet season will get wetter; and, c) while there are no signals that the number of typhoons entering the country will increase, there are indications that the typhoons that will hit the country will be unusually devastating.

- the 2012 Natural Hazards Risk Atlas by international organization Maplecroft, which, through its Global Risks Portfolio, indicated that the Philippines ranked 2nd to Bangladesh among countries in Asia with high exposure of cities and trading hubs to events such as flooding, earthquakes and tropical cyclones. The report also said these countries demonstrate poor capability to recover from a significant event exposing investments and delivery of social services; and - the report entitled, “Key Indicators for Asia and the Pacific 2012: Green Urbanization in Asia.” by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) which indicated that Manila is among the top 20 megacities where rapid urbanization causes increased vulnerability to inland and coastal floods, water and air pollution.

“Are these statistics and projections considered and given weight in the proposed 2013 national budget, either by fine-tuning allocations by program expenditure and by geographic distribution or by implementing new programs that deviate from the business-as-usual mode to ultimately enhance the country’s resilience and adaptive capacity?” Cabigas asked.

La Liga, in its 2013 Alternative Budget Proposals Presentation in Congress, underscored the need to make the national budget climate-sensitive and DRR-proofed such as through funding strategic CCA and DRR programs and projects like clearing critical waterways of formal, informal and commercial/industrial settlements and establishments; biodiversity conservation, sustainable agriculture, fisheries and forestry; and development and promotion of the use of renewable and sustainable energy.

“Climate change is here and now. The past typhoons, and more recently, even monsoon rains, have been unusually devastating to our country and our people. The shattering impact of disasters, both climate-related and not, is as real as they can get, with grim indications that the worse may still be forthcoming,” Cabigas said.

“We just cannot continue on the business-as-usual or BAU mode whereby we confine our actions within the usual borders and comfort zones. It is time to go beyond these borders and act decisively in order to enhance our country’s resiliency and adaptive capacity, and ultimately, national development targets on poverty alleviation, social services and human and economic development. And this must start with the 2013 National Budget, a turning point for President Aquino’s administration,” he concluded. (La Liga Policy Institute)

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