The resolute advocacy of urgent climate action on the international stage by President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.— from New York to Bangkok—has cast him as the champion or point person of high-risk developing economies like the Philippines long seeking financial and technical aid from wealthy nations that have grown even richer from their largely unchecked greenhouse gas  (GHG) emissions responsible for fast-rising global temperatures, according to Camarines Sur Rep. LRay Villafuerte.

Villafuerte noted that in his engagements at the just-concluded 29th Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Economic Leaders’ Meeting (AELM) in Bangkok, Thailand,   “Mr. Marcos had strongly pushed for collective action from APEC’s 21 member-states on dealing with three urgent issues to hasten global recovery from Covid-19, and one of these concerns is climate change.”

Villafuerte said that another plus for the Philippines being at the forefront of climate action under the Marcos presidency is the present government’s  concrete  steps  on decarbonization, specifically on weaning the country away from the use of fossil fuel for energy generation  in favor of renewables like solar and wind power. 

The two other issues raised by Mr. Marcos at the AELM, which, he said, APEC member-states needed to tackle collectively are on ensuring food security and upgrading the world’s health systems, said Villafuerte, who is president of the National Unity Party (NUP).

Villafuerte said that at the APEC Economic Leaders’ Meeting (AELM) Retreat Session, President Marcos had warned  other heads of states that the world is now facing what he called “the greatest environmental challenges of all time” that require “strong, immediate and coordinated international action.”

At the APEC forum, he said Mr. Marcos had reiterated  the Philippines’ commitment to advancing cooperative solutions from the previously agreed international accords on protecting the environment and reversing the climate crisis, including the United Nations (UN) Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) of 1992 and the Paris Climate Accords (Paris Agreement) of 2015.

“As one of the economies at greatest risk from the climate crisis, the Philippines is committed to advancing these cooperative solutions,” said President Marcos at the APEC gathering of Asia-Pacific country leaders.

Villafuerte said that in the AELM Retreat Session II last Saturday, meanwhile,  Mr. Marcos also urged the regional economic bloc to contribute to a trade and investment environment that helps countries  cut GHG emissions, facilitate climate financing and ensure genuine and effective technology transfer for the most vulnerable developing economies.

For Villafuerte, our Chief Executive “has the moral high ground to champion climate action for all developing states that are  reeling from the largely unbridled pollution caused mainly by the world’s richest countries like the US (United States) and China, given that he is President of our country that is regarded as one of the nations, if not the No. 1 nation, most vulnerable to worsening climate change hazards like killer typhoons, flash floods and prolonged dry spells.”   

Moreover, our Chief Executive  is the most ideal point person for the climate-action advocacy, he said, because  rather than mope over the dismal  failure of rich nations to come through on their pledge in 2009 to extend  $100 billion-worth of  annual financial aid by 2020 to developing states, “the Philippines, under President Marcos’ leadership, is pursuing a bold and ambitious agenda on climate action despite  anemic financial support from the developed world for high-risk countries to cut their carbon footprint.”

Villafuerte was referring to Manila’s commitment, as bared  by the Philippine delegation in last year’s UN Climate Change Conference  (COP26) in Glasgow, Scotland to a projected greenhouse GHG emission reduction and avoidance of 75% over the 2020-2030 period for the agriculture, wastes, industry, transport and energy sectors.

The world’s heaviest polluters that have profited hugely from decades of GHG emissions have been under increasing pressure from developing countries and climate activists to abide by their pledge made at the 2015 Paris Agreement to reduce global warming  to 2 degrees Celsius, or preferably 1.5 degree Celsius,  of pre-industrialization levels in order to mitigate the deleterious effects on highly vulnerable economies like the Philippines of the erratic weather patterns caused by planet heating, Villafuerte said.

Villafuerte said that another plus for the Philippines being at the forefront of climate action under the Marcos presidency is the present government’s  concrete  steps  on decarbonization, specifically on weaning the country away from the use of fossil fuel for energy generation  in favor of renewables like solar and wind power. 

He said that with climate change being—according to the President—“the most pressing existential challenge of our time,” Mr. Marcos said in his opening statement at the APEC CEO meeting in Bangkok  that “the Philippines has prioritized hydrothermal, geothermal, solar power, wind power as well as other low-emission energy sources by setting a target for a 35% renewable energy in the power generation mix by 2030 and 50% by 2040.”

According to an Office of the Press Secretary (OPS) report, the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) has allocated P453.11 billion for climate change adaptation and mitigation in the 2023 national budget plan—an amount that is 56.4 percent higher than this year’s outlay of P289.73 billion.

In his speech upon his return from Bangkok on Saturday night, the President said it was “very encouraging because the problems as we have identified them (at the APEC sessions) seem to be the same problems for most of the countries. In other words, we have a consonance of views and analyses on the things that are to be of concern.”

Mr. Marcos said the heads of state of the other APEC member-states now “know what the Philippine position is on several issues,” and noted that the “overarching global concern for everyone is and should be global—the climate change issues that are coming.”

He stressed in his arrival speech that, ”it is also up to us to go to those developed countries who have had their development … they ended up changing the weather in the world. And for them to assist developing countries who have not been a contributor to global warming, to carbon gas emissions, through carbon emissions, and all the other activities that have caused the weather to change and for these disasters to be happening.”

“You start off talking about the economy, you end up somehow at some point talking about climate change and so I think there will be a very strong push,” the President added.

Villafuerte said it was significant for Mr. Marcos to champion climate justice at the APEC as a way to hasten post-pandemic recovery for developing states  that are most vulnerable to planet warming because this annual summit is the premier forum in the Asia-Pacific that was launched in 1989 primarily to sustain growth and prosperity in the region.

Almost 3 billion people combined live in the  21 member-economies of APEC, which account for 60% of the world’s gross domestic product (GDP), he said. Over 80% of  Philippine trade abroad are in APEC member-states  and nearly 70% of remittances sent to the Philippines are from overseas  Filipinos living or working in these countries. 

Villafuerte said that at the 41st Associations of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit Retreat in Cambodia, President Marcos emphasized the need for  “collective responsibility” to address climate change, and for the industrialized states to do their part in mitigating its risks and damages, most especially to countries  like the Philippines that are suffering heavily from climate shocks.

He said Mr. Marcos had asked country leaders of the rest of ASEAN at the Bangkok summit to beef up regional cooperation on sustainable development, and called on the US to support the global fight against climate change.

On the sidelines of the ASEAN summit, Villafuerte said President Marcos discussed with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau the urgency of checking the climate crisis.

Mr. Marcos told the Prime Minister, said Villafuerte, that one proof of the increasing vulnerability to climate hazards of high-risk countries like the Philippines was the “very strange” impact of typhoon “Paeng,” which marked the first time that a weather disturbance had affected the entire country.

“From up in the northern part, the northern island of Luzon, all the way down to the southern part of the Philippines. Everybody felt it and felt it badly,” the President told Mr. Trudeau.

Citing the Nov. 17 report by the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC), Villafuerte said Mr. Marcos was correct as “Paeng” had killed 162 people, caused P5.6 billion-worth of infrastructure damages and P6.4 billion-worth of farm losses, and affected almost 1.39 million families or 5.588 million individuals.

Villafuerte recalled that President Marcos,  in his first official overseas trip in September to attend  the 77th session of the UN General Assembly (UNGA) in New York, the pitched for climate justice  by reminding wealthy nations of their unmet commitment to give financial and technical support to non-affluent states  like the Philippines.

The Bicolano solon  recalled that President Marcos had described climate change as the “greatest threat affecting our nations and peoples,” as he  bewailed  at the UNGA the Philippines’ situation as one of the most vulnerable countries to climate change.

He said the President observed that, “The effects of climate change are uneven and reflect a historical injustice. Those who are least responsible suffer the most … The Philippines, for example, is a net carbon sink. We absorb carbon dioxide than we emit. And yet, we are the fourth most vulnerable country to climate change.”

President Marcos at the  same time called on industrialized countries to fulfill their obligations under the UNFCCC and the Paris Agreement to cut their GHG gas emissions and provide climate financing and technology transfer for adaptation for the most vulnerable developing states, added Villafuerte.

“Commitments should be backed up by actions as these are crucial for developing countries like the Philippines, which unfortunately bear the brunt of the consequences of climate change even if they account for just a tiny portion of the world’s GHG emissions largely responsible for global warming,”  said the President at the 77th UNGA.

Mr. Marcos had called on industrialized countries to “immediately fulfill their obligations” under the UNFCCC and the Paris Agreement to “cut their greenhouse gas emissions, provide climate financing and technology transfer for adaptation for the most vulnerable  and developing countries to lead by example,” Villafuerte said.

Villafuerte backed the President’s view, noting that the Philippines is responsible for only 0.3% of global GHG emissions but has been battered each year by stronger and more destructive  typhoons because of  rising global temperatures resulting from the worsening climate crisis.  

At the UNGA, Villafuerte said President  Marcos called climate change as “the greatest threat affecting our nations and our peoples,” and that “there is no other problem so global in nature that it requires a united effort, one led by the United Nations.”

For Mr. Marcos, the effects of climate change reflected “an historical injustice … those who are least responsible suffer the most.  The Philippines, for example, is a net carbon sink, we absorb more carbon dioxide than we emit. And yet, we are the 4th most vulnerable country to the effects of climate change. This injustice must be corrected, and those who need to do more must act now.”

Villafuerte pointed out that the Marcos administration’s strong push for climate action has likewise topped the concerns of Philippine delegations to  other international gatherings in recent weeks.

At the COP27 in Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt, Villafuerte said Environment Secretary Antonia Yulo-Loyzaga has lobbied for urgent and bolder climate action through financing and technical support from affluent nations, and proposed the adoption of “loss and damage” to compensate for both economic and non-economic losses of developing nations hit hard by global warming.

Yulo-Loyzaga had revealed at COP27 that earthquakes and typhoons have cost the Philippines about $3.5 billion in annual private and public asset losses,  which is equivalent to about 1% of GDP.  Such losses are projected to surpass $33 billion over the next 50 years.

Also at the high-level ministerial dialogue on climate finance at the same COP27 conference in Egypt, Villafuerte  said our Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) reportedly  announced  that Manila had proposed the adoption of an operational definition of climate finance to include the principles  of the New Collective Quantified Goal (NCQG).

By NCQG, he said the  DFA was referring to the new set of climate financial support for the needs and priorities of developing states like the Philippines,  that was based on the $100 billion that industrialized states were supposed to  provide for climate adaptation financing as agreed upon at the Paris Agreement. 

Earlier, at the regular Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva, Switzerland last week, Villafuerte said Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla  reiterated Manila’s call for climate justice—for rich countries to “increase  financing for mitigation, adaptation and loss and damage for developing countries.”

Villafuerte said Remulla had stressed at the UNHRC-UPR that one challenge to the “indivisibility and interdependence” of all human rights was “climate change and its adverse and compounding impacts on human rights … let us not lose sight of the bigger issue, which is, that all countries must faithfully and urgently fulfill their international obligations on climate action.”

Earlier, Villafuerte said that with the President’s active participation in the 40th and 41st ASEAN Summits and the 17th East Asia Summit (EAS) in Cambodia along with his bilateral meetings with country leaders on the sidelines of the four-day events, “Mr. Marcos had turned the international spotlight on a broad range of issues that affect the Philippines and the rest of the  region such as attaining food security towards self-sufficiency and ensuring prosperity and maritime security, as well as on those that impact on the whole world like climate justice and an end to nuclearization and geopolitical discords.”   

“At the same time,” he said, “the President had adeptly conveyed during his separate bilateral meetings with other heads of state the Philippines’ support for positions that have a  huge effect on the whole world, like the need for  the People’s Democratic Republic of Korea (PDRK) to recognize the anti-nukes resolutions of the UNSC (United Nations Security Council) leading to the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, an immediate halt to the Russia-Ukraine War, and the quest for climate justice from affluent  nations mainly responsible for largely unchecked GHG emissions that pollute the world and hurt high-risk developing economies.”

Citing a report released at the COP26 climate talks in Glasgow, Villafuerte said a study has concluded that 65  nations most vulnerable to climate change will see gross domestic product (GDP) drop 20% on average by 2050 and 64% by 2100 if the world heats up 2.9 degrees Celsius.

Even if global temperature rises are capped at 1.5 degrees Celsius, in keeping with the most ambitious Paris Agreement goal, the same countries would take a GDP hit of 13% by 2050 and 33% by the end of the century, this study commissioned by Christian Aid said. 

The Department of Finance (DOF) revealed at a separate climate forum that losses from natural calamities and disasters in the Philippines could hit P1.5 trillion over the next 50 years as the effects of climate change become worse—or about 7.7% of the country’s nominal gross domestic product of P19.187 trillion in 2021.

The Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa) has pointed out, meanwhile, that the Philippine sea level has been rising three times faster than the world’s average, putting in peril many of the country’s coastal and low-lying areas.

“Our Chief Executive “has the moral high ground to champion climate action for all developing states that are  reeling from the largely unbridled pollution caused mainly by the world’s richest countries like the US (United States) and China, given that he is President of our country that is regarded as one of the nations, if not the No. 1 nation, most vulnerable to worsening climate change hazards like killer typhoons, flash floods and prolonged dry spells.”   

In the World Risk Report 2022 on the disaster risks of 193 countries, the Germany-based Bündnis Entwicklung Hilft and the Institute for International Law of Peace and Armed Conflict at Ruhr University Bochum (IFHV) has bared that the Philippines rose in rank from No. 3 in 2018 to the current No. 1 spot, with a risk index score of 46.82.

The same report also listed the Philippines as among the Top 10 countries with the highest exposure to disasters, landing at No. 4 with  39.99 exposure, after China, Japan and Mexico.

In a joint  report, the  Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) claimed that the Philippines accounted for almost 22% of all displacements, more than the combined contribution of Central and West Asia along with  the Pacific.

“The Philippines has been the country most affected, as it experiences between 5 and 10 destructive tropical cyclones every year, making it one of the countries most at risk of extreme weather events in the Asia and Pacific region and globally,” according to the report.

It said  the biggest disaster to hit the Philippines over the decade was typhoon “Haiyan” (or “Yolanda”)  in 2013, which dislocated  4.1 million Filipinos, or 20% of the 19.7 million disaster displacements in the Asia-Pacific region that year.

Villafuerte said that in his first State of the Nation Address (SONA) last July, President Marcos pointed out that although the Philippines is “a minor contributor” to climate change globally, “we have the unfortunate distinction of being one of the most vulnerable countries to the effects of climate change. For the welfare of our people, it is incumbent upon us to alleviate the effects of that vulnerability.”

Hence, Mr. Marcos said, the use of renewable energy (RE) is at the top of his government’s climate agenda. “We will increase our use of renewable energy sources such as hydropower, geothermal power, solar and wind,” he said.

“If we cannot mitigate climate change, all our plans for the economy, all our plans for our future, will be for naught,” added the President in his SONA.



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