Climate Summit hosting issue already cost RP a diplomatic embarrassment, says Climate Change commissioner 

by Ben Serrano

November 20, 2010


            SURIGAO CITY (PNA) - The tug of war of who will host the crucial 2012 Global Climate Change Summit otherwise known as 18th Conference of Parties (COP) has already caused diplomatic embarrassment because Climate Change Commission Vice Chair Heherzon Alvarez endorsed South Korea while Department of Foreign Affairs endorses Qatar .


            Climate Change Commissioner Naderev "Yeb" Sano said the hosting issue has already cost the Philippines diplomatic embarrassment because RP government cannot endorsed two countries at the same time.


            Sano however clarified that the hosting of the 2012 World Climate Change Summit shall be submitted for bidding process where interested countries submit their bid to host just like the Olympics.


            “However if officials of a country like the Philippines will not share same endorsement and instead endorsed two different countries at same time, it Is an embarrassment because it means we failed to act as one” Sano replied when asked what is his say as a commissioner in the tug of war of endorsements.

             Sano, Deputy House Speaker Lorenzo Tanada, III, top NGO officials from Oxfam, ICCS, Dakila, ISDA and top LGU and national government agencies' officials were here in Surigao City recently during the November 18 launching of Depensa, a community-led initiative climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction program. 


            In a letter dated Nov. 12, 2010 a copy of which was obtained by PNA, Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Erlinda F. Basilio reminded Alvarez that as early as May19, 2010, the country has already declared its support to Qatar ’s bid to host the event.


Basilio told Alvarez the Philippines is supporting the bid of Qatar since the two countries share similar positions on climate change, the Philippines being a member of the Group of 77 and China .


The official hinted Alvarez’s move might become a diplomatic faux pas.


She said the political decision [to support Qatar ] is a form of reciprocity as the country has “consistently supported the Philippines ’ OIC observer bid, including at the 37th Council of Foreign Ministers Meeting on May 18-20, 2010 in Dushanbe , Tajikistan .”


The OIC or Organization of Islamic Countries is an important player in the Mindanao peace process.


            But Alvarez in his letter to South Korean Ambassador to the Philippines Lee Hye-Min dated July 12, 2010 claimed the Climate Change Commission is supporting the bid of South Korea for the 2012 climate summit. PNA was able to obtain a copy of the Alvarez letter.


Alvarez told the Korean Ambassador that “the Climate Change Commission supports this initiative for reasons of proximity to the Philippines , the familiarity of your government on the UNFCC process, and the capacity of your country to host this event


            Climate Change Commission (CCC) Vice Chairman Secretary Heherson T. Alvarez, who heads the Philippine delegation to the 16th Conference of Parties (COP-16) in Cancun, Mexico from November 29 to December 10, 2010 where this agenda will be up for deliberation, said the Philippines’ support for the country that will host COP-18 is not final and has yet to be decided.


“Climate change is a daunting survival issue. For its environment dimension, we expressed our choice of Korea . But the matter is yet to be worked out and decided in Cancun . This is an issue of engaging and over-arching national interest.


"The determination of where the national interest lies in this issue will always be the prerogative of the Chief Executive, and we will always abide by that determination,” Alvarez said.


The Republic of Korea and Qatar both expressed interest to host COP-18. The Commission, chaired by President Aquino, was inclined to support Korea but the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) already committed to support Qatar .


“In early July, the Korean Embassy in Manila made representation before the Commission on their interest to host COP-18 and sought our support.


"At that time, we did not have any information on the stand of the DFA, nor knowledge of the intention of Qatar to host COP-18. We were uninformed of the DFA’s prior commitment to Qatar ,” Alvarez said.


And so he said he was surprised to receive a letter from the DFA on November 17 informing him that the DFA already endorsed Qatar as host of COP-18 on May 19.


“As the primary agency concerned with climate change issues, we expressed support for the Republic of Korea based solely on its laudable climate initiatives like the globally-prominent GREEN GROWTH PLAN,” Alvarez said.


He said it was also one of the first countries to heed the Philippines ’ call to cut carbon dioxide under our “deep and early cut” by committing to reduce 30 percent of its greenhouse gas emission by 2020.


The Philippines filed this initiative at the UNFCCC as early as COP-14 in Poznan , Poland in December 2008.


Alvarez explained that the Koreans interface with us extensively. Thousands of their students are in our schools. Their investments, both recreational and light industries, abound here.


“Which country would best host a global climate change meeting of world leaders, one that promises to reduce its carbon emissions or an oil-producing one that churns out fossil fuels that cause global warming? Where lies our national interest?” Alvarez in his press statement concludes. 


Red Constantino, director of the Institute for Climate and Sustainable Cities (iCSC) meanwhile said that Alvarez’s unilateral action “is just so fundamentally wrong and so outrageous on so many levels – for the nth time.”


“How long can Malacañang tolerate the situation? The country is in a hemorrhagic situation, but instead of blood the government is shedding political credibility at a dangerous rate,” he said.


The Climate Change Act of 2009 which created the Commission designates the President as the chairperson of the Climate Change Commission. Aside from Alvarez, the Commission has two other members, lawyer Lucille Sering, a former environment undersecretary, and Naderev Sano, a former climate campaigner at the World Wildlife Fund.


Constantino said the commitment given to South Korea was the “third major usurpation of authority” by Alvarez.


As member of the Philippine delegation to the 2009 Climate Change Summit in Copenhagen , Denmark , Alvarez, reportedly without consulting then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo signed the controversial Copenhagen Climate Deal. 

The Philippines formally withdrew its support to the deal in February 2010.


In September this year, Alvarez, without authority by the President and consultation with the other members of the Commission, signed a Memorandum of Agreement with the Land Bank of the Philippines designating the bank as the National Implementing Entity of the country with respect to the UN’s climate change Adaptation Fund.(PNA/Ben Serrano)