Two incendiary changes this year helped jump-start the Philippine economy — down but not out — as it reeled from the global financial meltdown that began in the US in 2007. The most obvious was the changing of the guard in Malacañang, with then President and now Pampanga 2nd District Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo completing her nine-year rule. President-elect Benigno Aquino III and his Cabinet came in as a breath of fresh air and a band of purported idealists. But idealism alone cannot rescue hostages.
CLIMATE ACTION UPDATES
Europe moves ahead on Cap & Trade, Japan seen shelving carbon emission trading scheme
Japan is likely to shelve a plan to introduce carbon emissions trading as the troubled ruling Democratic Party bows to powerful business groups still recovering from a costly downturn. If confirmed, it would be a massive reversal by the party, which has backed one of the toughest emissions reduction targets of any major economy and said emissions trading was a key way to achieve that goal and drive greater energy efficiency at home.
Climate negotiators at UN talks agreed to consider letting rich countries cut their climate-changing emissions by "rewetting" degraded peatlands, in the first official sign of global action on the issue. It was a victory for conservationists who long fought for incentives in UN forestry and land-use proposals to entice governments to stop draining carbon-rich swamps.
Solons seek repeal of law mandating calamity funds in local budgets
ILOILO CITY, Philippines — A bill has been filed in Congress seeking to scrap the mandatory allocation of calamity funds from the budget of local government units (LGUs). House Bill No. 3813, co-authored by Negros Oriental Representative George Arnaiz and Iloilo City Rep. Jerry Treñas, seeks to repeal Section 21 of Republic Act No. 10121 or the “Philippine Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act of 2010." Section 21 mandates LGUs to allocate at least 5 percent of its income for its Local Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Fund (LDRRMF).
Use calamity fund for disaster preparedness equipment—DILG
MANILA, Philippines—The Department of Interior and Local Government is pushing for the expansion of the use of calamity fund to include the purchase of disaster preparedness equipment to avert huge damages during calamities. Secretary Jesse Robredo told a news conference Wednesday that he hoped the proposal would be adopted in the Senate, as the proposal had already reached second reading at the House of Representatives. Robredo said that the proposal would include the expansion of the scope of calamity funds to include safeguards against disasters. He said that ideally, 70 percent of the fund should be spent on preparedness and mitigation measures and 30 percent for relief operations.
MANILA, Philippines — Sen. Edgardo Angara yesterday called on the Aquino administration to use science and technology (S&T) to advance the country’s agricultural system and make it a priority in 2011. Angara, chairman of the Congressional Commission on Science Technology and Engineering (COMSTE), said the government should use S&T to “engineer resilience” into agricultural methods in order to keep the sector competitive in the face of natural calamities and disasters
According to whistleblower site Wikileaks, the US Embassy in the Vatican reported to Washington that the Pope is receptive to using genetically modified crops (GMOs) to fight world hunger, but may encounter resistance from bishops from the Philippines and other countries. Among Wikileaks latest disclosures is a cable sent to Washington, DC in 2009 that touched on Pope Benedict XVIs remarks on environmental protection, among other things. The cable lauded Pope Benedicts remarks at the World Food Security Summit in Rome on Nov. 16, 2009, where he underscored the link between agricultural development and agricultural technology.
THE president of the Philippine Senate on Monday said he expects a "bloody" debate on the reproductive health bill pending in Congress as Catholic bishops said they have not softened their stand against the proposed measure. "This is going to be one of the most debatable and the most serious piece of legislation that will confront both houses of Congress. It will divide the country very politically," Senate president Juan Ponce Enrile, a Catholic, said.
SHIFT SHIFT TO RENEWABLE ENERGY UPDATES
Biofuels potential harm to biodiversity. A European report and recommendation to hamper crop invasiveness
Biofuels and their invasive potential is a problem being address worldwide. A report was written for the Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats (known as the Council of Europe-Bern Convention) by the Italian Institute for Environmental Protection and Research (ISPRA) - an agency led by the Italian Ministry for the Environment. Following the report the Standing Committee of the Bern Convention, worried that the increase of biofuel cropping systems may lead to cultivation escapes of invasive taxa with subsequent negative effect on native biological diversity, adopted advices to reduce impacts, of potentially invasive alien plants being used as biofuel crops, on species biodiversity and natural ecosystems.
PUBLIC HEALTH UPDATES
Health for all feasible
MANILA, Philippines—The decreasing budget for health services highlights once again the need to pursue a reform agenda to provide all Filipinos access to quality but affordable health services. This is an imperative for social equity in which people who have less in life should have more in basic government services, especially for health. The proposed 2011 budget of P33.3 billion for the Department of Health (DOH) is meager by all measures. It represents about 2 percent of the proposed 2011 national budget of P1.64 trillion. In their candid but exasperating manner, lawmakers have said that the devolution of health services to local government units (LGUs) is the primary reason for the low DOH budget.
PEACE & DEVELOPMENT UPDATES
Govt may start informal talks with MILF next month
MANILA, Philippines - The government is targeting to start exploratory talks with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) by January. In a press release, lead negotiator and lawyer Marvic Leonen said the government panel is just waiting for the go-signal from MILF panel chair Mohagher Iqbal. The sessions may be held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
MINING RE-ORIENTATION UPDATES
Small-scale mining not so small after all
DAVAO CITY, Philippines—If small-scale mining normally involves manual labor, what do you call supposedly small-time miners who use heavy equipment? This is the dilemma the Department of Environment and Natural Resources has been facing in Southern Mindanao, says regional director Jim Sampulna. Sampulna told the Inquirer last Monday that contrary to what the law prescribed, small-scale miners now use heavy equipment such as bulldozers.
New York/Nairobi, 21 December 2010 A new international body aimed at catalyzing a global response to the loss of biodiversity and worlds economically-important forests, coral reefs and other ecosystems was born yesterday by governments at the United Nations 65th General Assembly (UNGA). It underlines a further success of the UNs International Year of Biodiversity and should provide a boost to the International Year of Forests which begins in January 2011, and the international decade of biodiversity, also beginning in January 2011. The adoption, by the UNGA plenary, was the last approval needed for setting up an Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES).
China will “take all the necessary measures" in maintaining peace and stability in the disputed Spratly islands but these do not include giving the United States (US) any role in the negotiations among claimants, a Chinese diplomat said. “(The US should) have no involvement in the negotiations, as it would only complicate matters," said Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Liu Jianchao in a press briefing on Wednesday at his residence in Makati City. According to Liu, the Spratlys dispute does not concern the US because it is between China and other countries from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) claiming the islands.
HUMAN RIGHTS & SOCIAL JUSTICE UPDATES
LGBT Rights in the UN: Philippine Abstention means injustice
The good news first: the UN decided to restore sexual orientation in the text of the resolution on extrajudicial, arbitrary and summary killings. An overwhelming number of States pushed to correct the grave error against human rights that took place a month ago, thus highlighting that inhuman abuses are committed against certain individuals because of their actual or perceived sexual orientation. The bad news: The Philippines abstained again. This is not surprising, since in many UN initiatives involving sexual orientation and gender identity, the Philippines has consistently abstained. The Permanent Mission (http://www.un.int/philippines/) of the country to the UN has always justified this stance by claiming that the country has no national policy on the rights of lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgenders. That’s a lame excuse. The mandate provided by our own Constitution is clear enough – the State affirms human dignity. Extrajudicial and arbitrary killings, especially those sanctioned by State agents, violate human rights.