“Lotilla and Yulo-Loyzaga, who understand the challenge of the climate emergency and biodiversity crisis, are both business friendly and pro-poor, emphasize the importance of climate and environmental justice, and are sustainability advocates”
I welcome the Marcos appointments of Raphael Perpetuo Lotilla (we call him Popo) and Ma. Antonia, Toni to us in Manila Observatory, Yulo-Loyzaga as Energy and Environment Secretaries.
Because I have worked with both persons for decades, I am not just cautiously optimistic but downright hopeful that our islands, our mountains, seas, rivers, lakes, and, yes, cities, will be in a better place in the years to come.
Lotilla and Yulo-Loyzaga, who understand the challenge of the climate emergency and biodiversity crisis, are both business friendly and pro-poor, emphasize the importance of climate and environmental justice, and are sustainability advocates.
They will rely on the best science for their decisions,
I told them in text exchanges, when their nominations for the Department of Energy and Department of Environment and Natural Resources posts were announced, that I will help in whatever way they need me, short of joining government myself.
But I actually feel I can retire now as this is the best environment-energy tandem we have ever had in our history.
Popo Lotilla is a friend and colleague of 35 plus years. He was my first mentor in the College of Law of the University of the Philippines, when Dean Pacifico Agabin recruited me to its faculty, and as the founding director of the Institute of International Legal Studies (IILS) of the UP Law Center.
We partnered to put IILS in a position of great influence in academe and government. That work got noticed and we both ended up appointed into the Cabinet of Fidel V. Ramos as undersecretaries, in my case in the DENR while Popo was designated Deputy Director General at the National Economic and Development Authority.
Nobody else can do this job better than Popo. He knows the DOE well, having served as Secretary during the Macapagal-Arroyo administration.
Before that, he served as President of the Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management Corp. (PSALM) and did an excellent job with that agency.
In NEDA, serving with the visionary Ciel Habito as Director General, Popo was exposed to the challenge of addressing sustainable development dilemmas.
In the case of energy, we are faced with a trilemma of access and security, affordability, as well as environmental sustainability in the context of the climate and biodiversity crisis.
Just last week, he called me up to discuss energy policy. We ended up talking for two hours as I shared my thinking around the energy transition in the context of the global climate emergency. I am sure the incoming Secretary can find a consensus on how we can move forward on these issues.
As Energy Secretary, Lotilla will have to decide how we can transition away from fossil fuels, complete the reduction and eventual phaseout of coal in our energy mix, make sure that natural gas is as advertised as a bridge and transition fuel given its climate and biodiversity footprint, and come up with renewable energy policies and investment packages that will help us achieve our Nationally Determined Contribution under the Paris Agreement.
In the case of incoming DENR Secretary Yulo-Loyzaga, I have known her since the late 1970s in college at Ateneo de Manila but we reconnected in 2001 when Toni joined as a business person and observer the Philippine delegation to the Bonn climate change negotiations that year.
Fr Jett Villarin SJ, then the climate division chief of Manila Observatory, was also in the delegation while I was a lead negotiator for developing countries.
The three of us hit it off and liked working together and Toni became affiliated with Manila Observatory, eventually becoming its head a few years later.
To continue the story, Toni stayed nine years as Executive Director of Manila Observatory before moving on to head the National Resilience Council. I succeeded her in that role in 2016 following my 10 year deanship of the Ateneo School of Government and today Fr. Villarin is back at the helm of MO.
But Toni stayed with us all these years as a member of our Board and head of our International Advisory Board.
I have said that Ms. Yulo-Loyzaga is the perfect and best choice for the position because of her experience and background.
This has been echoed by many environmental organizations (Greenpeace International, Masungi Georesrve Foundation, Alyansa Tigil Muna, WWF Philippines, etc) as well as business and industry associations such as the Chamber of Mines.
Ms. Yulo-Loyzaga combines a strong grounding in the natural and social sciences with an understanding of the business sector, poor communities in urban and rural areas, and sustainable development challenges.
I won’t second-guess Loyzaga’s policies on mining and the plastics industry but am certain her decisions will be science-based and balanced.
I expect her certainly to be supportive of conservation efforts like the Masungi Georeserve as well as the great work done by groups like the Save Zambales Movement.
Ms. Yulo-Loyzaga would be sensitive to the business sector while also prioritizing the poor. Among others, in MO, she was a big supporter of poverty mapping to understand how we sacrifice the poor in development decisions.
The big picture for our country, especially in the context of the global crisis, is still challenging. But for the two critical areas of energy and environment, the future looks good.
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