Palace quizzed on ‘Ondoy’ aid

30 solons, civil society demand audit of P16-b foreign funds

SOME 30 lawmakers and civil society groups on Sunday demanded an accounting of some P16.4 billion in foreign donations for cities devastated by tropical storm Ondoy in 2009 to address concerns that the funds were misused by the national government.

The call came as Leyte Rep. Ferdinand Martin Romualdez, leader of the independent minority bloc in the House of Representatives, called for an investigation of where billions of pesos in foreign donations to calamity-stricken provinces went after they were hit by a killer earthquake and super typhoon Yolanda last year.

Tarlac Rep. Susan Yap, president of Global Legislators Organization Philippines and civil society groups demanded and immediate accounting and tracking of climate change finance to ensure better planning and transparency.

Yap said the lawmakers wanted to make sure that the foreign funds did not go to dubious projects after tropical storm Ondoy hit Metro Manila four years ago.

“We are talking about millions of dollars that could have made a difference in the lives of the people. Knowing how it was spent should be in our list of priorities if we are keen to build strong adaptive capacity to climate change and resilient communities in the country,” Yap said.

Angelo Kairos dela Cruz, policy coordinator of the Institute for Climate and Sustainable Cities, agreed.

“The volume of data that we have gathered so far is... proof that there is money flowing into the Philippines for climate change adaptation. It is the right time that we start asking where it went and how it was spent,” he said.

The ICSC is leading the Adaptation Finance Accountability Initiative (AFAI), a global effort that seeks to track international funds that are reported to finance adaptation initiatives.

Dela Cruz said AFAI reported that contributor-countries, through the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development or OECD, multilateral and bilateral banks provided a total of $367.7 million or P16.4 billion from 2009 to 2012.

Of the P16.4 billion, Dela Cruz said the Philippines under the Arroyo administration in 2009 received $4.1 million or P91.92 million in adaptation-tagged funds.

The rest – or more than P15 billion – was received by the Aquino administration.

In 2010, he said, adaptation finance inflow amounted to $186.4 million. For 2011, adaptation funding was $87.7 million, and $89.5 million in 2012.

“These funds were reported by contributor (also called “donor”) countries through the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development and multilateral and bilateral banks as sources for climate change adaptation initiative funding in the country.

“But what activities were supported? Who were the contributing countries and institutions? Which national agency or organization received adaptation funding? These are important questions,” Dela Cruz said.

Among the donors for the Ondoy catastrophe from 2009 to 2012 were the United Kingdom, the United States, Australia, Japan, Belgium, Germany, Norway, Sweden Switzerland, Finland, Luxembourg, Spain, Korea, New Zealand, European Union (Institutions), Canada, Italy, Ireland and such multilateral financial institutions such as the Asian Development Bank, UN Development Program and the World Bank, Dela Cruz said.

Dela Cruz said the Aquino government has yet to make public the list of projects funded by the P16.4 billion in foreign donations.

He said adaptation to climate change is defined as adjustments made in natural systems to address the potential effects of climate change.

“By their very nature, adaptation initiatives should anticipate projected climatic impacts,” he said.

“Interestingly, the current sectoral distribution of climate finance in the Philippines in 2010 and 2011 shows that almost half of the fund has gone to reconstruction and rehabilitation projects, soon after episodic disasters such as typhoon Ondoy in 2009,” Dela Cruz said.

He said the immediate delivery of services after disasters were critical but climatic impacts comprise more than just episodic extreme events.

Slow onset impacts such as changes in a locality’s hydrology, incremental increases or reduction in precipitation and average temperatures, sea level rise, and ocean acidification -- these already take place throughout the year in many localities, he said.

“Mostly unfelt, without the drama of a calamity, these types of impacts are usually neglected,” Dela Cruz pointed out. “The result: equal, if not more devastating, long-term effects that can be irreparable based on the magnitude and duration of the effect.”

“How much of future adaptation finance will be channeled towards strategic, adaptive initiatives? How much will be deployed towards reactive climate change response activities? What strategies can reduce the many vulnerabilities of the Philippines? What picture will emerge in 2014, once the massive pledges (and to an increasing extent, disbursement) of funding related to the response to super typhoon Yolanda, are taken into account? To what extent will climate change ultimately re-shape the Philippine government’s annual national budget deliberations?” Dela Cruz said.

AFAI based its data on the funds used for financing climate change adaptation initiatives according to contributing countries, international banks, and international organizations. AFAI is ongoing in four countries: Uganda, Zambia, Nepal, and Philippines.

“We all know that impacts from climate change are making things worse for the poorest Filipinos whose vulnerability is continuing to grow day by day,” Yap said.

Yap said the Global Legislators Organization’s mission is to create a critical mass of lawmakers that can agree on and advance common legislative responses to climate change.

Yap called on her fellow legislators to join the effort in tracking funds intended for climate change adaptation initiatives during the launch of the online climate finance portal,

“With AFAI and Adaptracker, we can start a new conversation that would strike the perfect balance between access and fiduciary standards in climate finance sourced internationally and locally, which will put us in the better position to set up and implement plans for adapting to the changing climate,” Yap added.

Adaptracker was showcased in an event co-organized by ICSC and the Congressional Policy and Budget Research Department (CPBRD) June 10.

“The findings and data on climate finance is a welcome addition to our office’s resources that we use in our policy work,” said Novel Bangsal, CPBRD director.

“Adaptracker allows us to use climate finance data in such a way that it is understandable and conversational.”

The Philippines, one of the most vulnerable countries to climatic change, has yet to establish its very own climate finance arm through the implementation of Republic Act 10174 or the People’s Survival Fund (PSF).

The PSF remains unfunded to this day even if the law mandates that the national government allocate P1 billion to implement the law.

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