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As a country highly vulnerable to climate change, the Philippines’ participation in the global climate change discussions at the 28th Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP28) is seen as crucial to the country’s climate resilience agenda.

“Climate change is a global problem that affects all nations,” President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. said, noting that the COP28 is the biggest platform for the international community where all stakeholders will have all-hands-on-deck to address climate change and help mitigate its impact, adding that, “Our continued engagement in the UN and other related international missions allows us to stand with other nations to build consensus and galvanize concrete and inclusive action against this threat.” 

The Philippine delegation to the 13-day COP28 event includes negotiators in seven workstreams, and other delegates from national government agencies, local government, non-government and people’s organizations and the business sector. Aside from mandatory meetings, and negotiations for country commitments to further reduce greenhouse gas emissions and avert climate change impacts, discussions and other bilateral meetings will be held during the conference, which takes place in Expo City, Dubai from November 30 to December 12, 2023.

The Head of the Philippine Delegation, Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Maria Antonia Yulo Loyzaga, emphasized that the Philippines will take on a whole-of-government approach in addressing climate change. Aside from the DENR and the Climate Change Commission (CCC), the Department of Finance, Department of Energy, Department of Labor and Employment, Department of Migrant Workers, Department of Agriculture, National Economic Development Authority, Department of Health, Department of Trade and Industry, Philippine Commission on Women and National Youth Commission are also part of the Philippine delegation. She added that significant participation by members of the Philippine delegation in these discussions is critical as the outcomes from COP28 will directly impact the climate mitigation and adaptation programs being implemented in the Philippines, which is among nations most affected by the impacts of climate change.

Secretary Loyzaga is the official representative of President Marcos as Chairperson-designate in the CCC—the government’s sole policy-making body on matters pertaining to climate change. Created under Republic Act 9729, the CCC is headed by the President as its Chairperson. 

“Climate finance is a huge theme in COP 28,” Secretary Loyzaga said. “We are working in seven major negotiating work streams: loss and damage, climate finance, adaptation, the global stocktake, the just transition, especially of our labor towards a renewable energy future, but also specifically our concerns about reskilling and upskilling our workforce. And finally, mitigation and Article 6 (of the Paris Agreement), for greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reduction and avoidance.”

COP28’s critical importance to the country becomes more evident as the first-ever “Global Stocktake,” which is undertaken every five years, is set to conclude during the conference. This assesses how far the world has come in tackling climate change and discusses how policymakers and stakeholders can strengthen their climate policies and commitments towards accelerated actions to meet the targets of the 2015 Paris Agreement.

Among the priorities of COP28 is the establishment of a Loss and Damage Fund for countries greatly impacted by climate change. In the Philippine context, the said funding is translated as financing for social development and resilient infrastructure.

“The Loss and Damage Fund is extremely important because there are climate-related adverse impacts that are beyond our ability to finance,” said Loyzaga, citing that sea level rise and the massive destruction brought about by super typhoons that hit the country from Yolanda (Haiyan) to Odette (Rai) have crossed multiple regions “so the cost of really trying to recoup and recover from this is way beyond what we are able to afford as a country.” 

The DENR chief added that the Loss and Damage Fund is meant to cover all the financing needed that cannot be addressed by adaptation finance, regular climate finance, or mitigation finance. Developed countries and other sources such as private sources therefore will be called upon to contribute to its operationalization in a timely and locally-driven manner.

Loyzaga added the Philippines is at the point where it will need to do a thorough review of the country’s commitment to a 75% GHG emissions reduction. This represents the country’s ambition for GHG mitigation for the sectors of agriculture, waste, industry, transport, and energy for the period 2020-2030.

“I think it is extremely important for us to be heard by other countries because what we're trying to do is really approach our climate resilience by twinning adaptation, mitigation, and disaster risk reduction. And that will involve the social, economic, environmental, and scientific efforts of our whole government,” she added. 

The Paris Agreement calls for keeping global warming in check by limiting temperature rise to no more than 1.5°C, and the reduction of GHG emissions by 45% by 2030, to reach net zero by 2050. Net zero means bringing down global GHG emissions to almost zero, while the residual or remaining GHG emission is captured or absorbed by, for example, the forests which sequester carbon dioxide, a major GHG.

“Our participation in COP28 seeks to amplify calls for developed nations to fulfill their commitments to developing countries in the areas of climate finance, technology transfer, and capacity-building.  Moreover, our exposure internationally will open opportunities for access to financial and technical support that we need as a country vulnerable to climate change.” 

In recognition of the country’s work on oceans and biodiversity, Loyzaga has been invited to speak at a number of side events. These include panel discussions on oceans and climate, minerals and climate, nature-based solutions, and innovative financing that needs to go into the work related to loss and damage and adaptation. The Philippines’ efforts on green shipping and supporting the reskilling and upskilling of seafarers and workers in the energy sector in relation to the transition to renewable energy has also been recognized.

Centered around the three major themes, Low Carbon Economic Development, Building Resilient Communities, and Protecting Biodiversity, Loyzaga added that the Philippine delegation will push for transformative climate governance, ramped-up efforts to decarbonize the global economy and implementation of nature-based solutions consistent with the country’s priority agenda. 

The Marcos administration has committed to reduce the Philippines' GHG emissions, aligning with global commitments under the Paris Agreement. 

COP28 is part of the broader 2023 UN Climate Change Conferences—the world’s highest decision-making body on climate issues. The annual conference gathers world leaders, top-level government officials, technical experts and other stakeholders to discuss and negotiate specific action plans to mitigate climate change risks, reduce GHG emissions and address global warming.

Aside from participating in the main meetings, selected national government agencies, development partners, private sector and civil society will be hosting over 30 panel discussions, presentations and networking opportunities at the country’s pavilion as part of the conference’s Side Events.  Themed “Together Today for Tomorrow,” these events are designed to connect and unite a diverse range of stakeholders focused on climate solutions, such as in data governance, nature, land use and oceans, disaster resilience, energy transition, transforming food systems, and climate financing.

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and the University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) that aims to advance science-based policies and decision-making, and develop and implement high-impact forestry, natural resources, and environment programs for a sustainable and resilient development of the country’s natural resources.
The MoU was signed by Environment Secretary Antonia Loyzaga and UPLB Chancellor Dr. Jose V. Camacho, Jr. during the 4th International Conference on Integrated Natural Resources and Environment Management (INREM 2023) with the theme, “Future-proofing Sustainable Ridge-to-Reef Transformation through Integrated Natural Resources and Environment Management” on November 21 in Manila.
“Our goal here with the MoU is to emphasize the DENR and UPLB’s shared vision and goal of having a sustainable and resilient natural resource management and environmental protection for our country,” Loyzaga said.
“It is our commitment to extend full cooperation and support to advance science and evidence-informed policy decision-making to revitalize the forestry sector, mindful of its effects on the adjacent environments including the coastal and marine sector, as well as maximizing these resources today, but also preserving them for generations to come,” she added.
Under the agreement, both parties committed to further the development of more collaborative activities such as research programs and seminars; on-the-job trainings, practicum and internships; and scholarship grants.
Atty. Thomas Kabigting from the DENR-Forest Management Bureau, UPLB College of Forestry and Natural Resources (CFNR) Dean Marlo D. Mendoza, UPLB CFNR Forestry Development Center Director Dixon Gevaña, and UPLB Interdisciplinary Studies Center for INREM Chair Juan Pulihin witnessed the signing of the MoU, signifying the continued partnership between the DENR and UPLB. ##

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) is set to revise guidelines for the Social Development and Management Programs (SDMP) of mining firms in the Philippines to align these with Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and guarantee enduring benefits for host communities, extending beyond the life of the mining operations.

According to DENR Undersecretary for Integrated Environmental Science Carlos Primo David, consultations with the mining sector are ongoing to incorporate provisions in the SDMP that promote responsible business actions to achieve the SDGs. He underscored the need to make existing SDMP initiatives more strategic in alignment with the SDGs, which are integrated into the Philippine Development Plan for 2023-2028.

David clarified that the SDMP guidelines would not be revised entirely, but will include additional provisions based on stakeholder consultations. Consultation with the community relations officers of mining companies was held on Nov. 16, 2023.

“The whole world has agreed to adopt the SDG in 2015. Therefore, the SDMP—its whole framework, should be aligned with the SDG. Hopefully, the revised SDMP for next year would align its programs towards achieving SDG goals, given the newly proposed guidelines” David said.

SDGs are 17 interlinked goals adopted by all United Nations Member States in 2015 as a global call to address poverty, inequality, climate change, environmental protection, peace, and justice. Comprised of 169 specific targets, the SDG serves as a global blueprint to end extreme poverty, reduce inequality, and protect the planet by 2030.

On the other hand, the SDMP is defined as a comprehensive five-year plan aimed at improving the living standards of host and neighboring communities. It is mandated under Republic Act No. 7942, or the Philippine Mining Act of 1995, which is implemented through DENR Administrative Order (DAO) No. 2010-21, or the Revised Implementing Rules and Regulations of the Philippine Mining Act of 1995.

SDMPs outline objectives to boost the economic contributions of mineral resources while safeguarding the environment, supporting affected communities, and developing local scientific and technical resources. The goal of SDMPs is to create responsible, self-reliant, and resource-based communities capable of managing community development programs independently.

“The SDMP is a program that is unique to the Philippine mining industry, and we should be very proud of it. In all mining activities that we should be doing, this is something that we should be proud of,” David said, noting that although there are SDMP-accredited activities that align with certain SDGs, there are several additional SDGs that the SDMP does not currently fulfill. For instance, improvements in living standards should be sustained even after mining operations cease, and communities should transition to alternative livelihoods, reducing dependence on mining income.

By law, mining contractors and permit holders are required to allocate 1.5% of operating expenses to the SDMP. Of the amount, 75% must be spent on community-development programs; 15% on mining technology and geosciences advancement programs; and 10% on information, education and communication program.

From 2002 to 2027, the total approved SDMP commitment reached P28 billion, with P17.7 billion allotted for 2002-2022. So far, the reported SDMP expenditure for 2002-2022 is P13.2 billion, with potential for increased disbursement in the future. SDMP activities include livelihood programs, educational support, health and medical assistance, public infrastructure, and socio-cultural and religious support.

David emphasized the importance of maximizing the impact of SDMP initiatives, ensuring they have a lasting effect. For SDG Goals 1 (No Poverty) and 2 (Zero Hunger), companies should focus on reducing maternal and neonatal mortality by providing healthcare access, education, and resources for pregnant women. SDMP projects could also include neonatal facilities and transportation for complicated pregnancies.

The DENR is also looking into inclusion of small-scale miners into the SDMP, to capacitate small miners and enhance resilience in mining communities. ###

The Ecosystems Research and Development Bureau (ERDB) of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) is pushing for improvements in research and development concerning the circular economy, on the back of increasing action towards sustainability in the government and the private sector and rising consciousness to reuse and regenerate materials or products. In an international forum organized by ERDB earlier this month, experts from across the region point to a need for further study of programs, current and best practices are needed to build circular economy capabilities.

The ERDB is the DENR’s main research arm mandated to formulate, implement and coordinate integrated research, development and programs on the environment and other related cross-cutting concerns. From November 8 to 9, 2023, the ERDB conducted the International Conference on Connecting the Dots on Circular Economy (CE) for Sustainable Development which served as a platform for an estimated 160 delegates from India, South Korea, Thailand, Lao PDR, Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore, Ethiopia, and the Philippines to discuss, develop, and share research insights on the circular economy.

“We acknowledge the need to have a venue for knowledge sharing with other countries on CE and start forging partnerships and linkages globally, specifically on research and development,” said ERDB Director Maria Lourdes Ferrer.

In the Philippines, the Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) Act of 2022 mandates that large enterprises divert 20% of the plastic waste they produced in 2023; 40% by 2024, and increase this volume by increments of 10% every year until an 80% decrease in plastic waste is achieved by 2028.

DENR Assistant Secretary for Enforcement, Solid Waste Management and Local Government Units Concerns, Daniel Darius Nicer, for his part, highlighted the important role of producers in the successful implementation of CE. He said that as producers, they should do things to reduce the production of waste before it reaches the consumers.

“CE emphasizes the accountability of producers as major players in the economy,” stressed Nicer.

During the 2-day event, a total of 20 poster presentations were displayed via exhibit and were briefly discussed during the 2-minute poster speed talk. A total of 23 paper presentations were also presented which served as a venue for sharing of experiences, practices, and findings both in the academic and business spheres.

All presentations were anchored on the conference’s four (4) major themes: 1) Circular Economy: Towards a Sustainable Supply Chain, 2) Circular Economy Implications on the Environment, 3) Circular Economy Policies and Governance for Sustainable Development, and 4) Innovation and Technology Advancements in Circular Economy.

Moreover, DENR continuously calls on producers, organizations, and all relevant stakeholders to practice the concept of CE and invest in research and development programs to ensure a decrease in its impact on the environment.

The concept of CE aims to move from the usual linear approach of “take, make, dispose”, instead, it aims to innovate strategies such as recycling, reusing, repairing, remanufacturing, and redesigning wastes. ###

As the Philippines marked ten years after Super Typhoon Yolanda (Typhoon Haiyan) struck, a top official of the United Nations reiterated the need to further enhance preparedness, recognizing that challenges still lie ahead. But even as more work needs to be done to continually improve resilience in the Philippines, the Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General (SRSG) for Disaster Risk Reduction, Mami Mizutori, also applauded the Philippines for its disaster risk reduction (DRR) efforts.

SRSG Mizutori, who also heads the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR), acknowledged that the Philippines stands as a global model of resilience, noting efforts to build disaster-response capabilities.

“There has been so much progress, remarkable progress with the integrated [DRR] and climate change adaptation at all levels, national and local. The Philippines is a role model not only in this region but the whole world. Your commitment to prevention, your commitment to DRR has truly empowered your resilience,” said SRSG Mizutori.

SRSG Mizutori also acknowledged the country’s inclusion of local financing for DRR-related policies and the recognition of local governments through the Local Government Code of the Philippines, a practice not commonly observed in other nations.

“Financing for disaster risk reduction, which is crucial to effectively implement strategies and transform words into actions is a priority issue. Currently, leaders in local governments are more and more recognized for their importance in building resilience but [the Philippines] did it 30 years ago. And today, local government units in provinces, cities, and municipalities in barangays, have their own local DRR strategy, management plans, and are implementing it,” SRSG Mizutori noted.

The UN DRR executive also encouraged increased localization to bring disaster risk reduction efforts down to the grass root level, and include harnessing local knowledge and engaging with communities to empower local action. She likewise commended the collaboration of local and private sector leaders in implementing the Adopt-a-City program, which she found innovative and suggested other countries follow suit.

The UN official also highlighted the country’s unique approach to risk-informed policy and projects, extending to various sectors such as agriculture, industry, and education, “Public-private partnership is also your strength," she added. ##