House body passes bill to fund climate change programs

THE House Committee on Ecology has reported out for floor deliberation a bill identifying the alternative funding provisions for climate change adaptation programs for local government units and communities.

The proposed People’s Survival Fund (PSF) bill, to be known as the “Depensa bill”, was approved by the body which was presided over by Rep. Mel Senen Sarmiento (1st District, Western Samar).

Sarmiento said representatives from different government agencies, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and the academe who attended the public hearings have endorsed the passage of the bill.

House Bill 3628, principally authored by Deputy Speaker Lorenzo Tañada, seeks to amend the Republic Act 9729 or the Climate Change Act of 2009.

Sarmiento said another source of funding the LGUs can avail of but has not taken advantage is the Disaster Risk Reduction and Management  Act, which addresses some concerns in relation to reducing the effects of

“In my home province, rainfall has become constant as a result of climate change and, as an adaptation measure, we are now planting pili and we can also take advantage of this by venturing into hydropower
generation, for example,” Sarmiento said.

Sarmiento also cited the Department of Agriculture (DA) as among those agencies which could study changes in weather pattern, effect changes in its program, such as shifting of regular palay varieties to other
varieties as an adaptation measure, and to educate farmers on the benefits of such programs.

“We are trying to strengthen the RA 9729 so that all concerns of LGUs will be addressed because, after all, all environmental laws like the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act and Solid Waste Management Act which
were passed by Congress have already been devolved to the LGUs,” Sarmiento said.

“Preparing for climate change is imperative, and this is the aspiration of community-driven campaign that I sponsor the bill before this Committee,” Tañada said.

“The People’s Survival Fund will be our enduring response to funding challenges perennially faced by poor communities who have had to more and more dip into budget items reserved for equally vital social
services such as health and education interventions,” Tañada said.

Rep. Roger Mercado (Southern Leyte), co-author of the bill, sought clarification on the funding provisions of the bill for fear of duplication of function with similar agencies like the National
Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC).

“Will this not duplicate the functions of the NDRRMC mandated under RA 10121, which prepares local government units from the effects of climate change?” asked Mercado.

Secretary Lucille Sering of the Climate Change Commission said there would be no duplication of function noting the responsibility of the NDRRMC is more of geophysical in nature, whereas the effects of
climate change are extreme weather events.

Sering said the climate change in the global arena gets more attention, especially on financing, and the new funding provision will complement the existing financing capability of the LGUs.

“We are doing this to invite more financing to the Philippines. Climate change adaptation programs will support the NDRRMC, whose funding comes from the General Appropriations Act, which is not
enough,” Sering said.

“Since the interest of the international donors is on climate change, there has to be a national fund where foreign donors will be comfortable putting their money in. The stringency of the provisions
of the People’s Survival Fund shows our transparency, credibility and willingness to handle their money and make sure that it will go to where it should be,” Sering said.

Agriculture Undersecretary Segfredo Serrano said the agency is yet to submit its official position on the matter, but stated that DA welcomes the refinements the DEPENSA bill wishes to introduce to RA
9729 and concurs to the need for the bill’s immediate passage.

Serrano also informed the committee of their request for the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) director-general’s, and the Department of Agrarian Reform’s (DAR) own appeal for, inclusion to the
advisory board.

“As chief economic planner of the country, the NEDA director-general would have a macro outlook on climate change issues. Likewise, being a major rural development agency of the government with particular
responsibility for our agrarian reform beneficiaries, DAR’s inclusion would be beneficial to the board,” Serrano said.

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