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NEDA urges more focus on climate change, smart infra – Manila Bulletin

Outgoing Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Karl Kendrick T. Chua is confident the incoming Marcos government will put equal focus – if not more — on the impact of climate change on industries and sustainable development particularly in the use of smart infrastructure.

Chua, during his last “#AskNEDA” press chat on Monday, June 27, said that to improve productivity, the next administration will need to shift to a higher gear its climate change response since the Philippines suffers more economic losses as a vulnerable country to extreme weather events.

Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Karl Kendrick T. Chua

Chua said he has already spoken with incoming National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) director-general Arsenio M. Balisacan, himself a former socioeconomic planning secretary under the Aquino government, on transition plans and issues. Part of future talks will include climate change risks and response, and the integration of digital technology to infrastructure planning under the 2023-2028 Philippine Development Plan or PDP.

Mercedita A. Sombilla, the Regional Development Group undersecretary, said the PDP will “revolve” around climate change. “I think Sec Balisacan really recognized this also, he has been alluding to have climate change as a particular challenge in all development activities,” she said during the press chat.

NEDA assistant secretary Roderick M. Planta, for his part, said it “will really makes sense” if smart infrastructure is operationalizing the sustainable development goals or SDGs and the Paris Climate Change actions. “This will feature in the next PDPs,” he added.

Sombilla on Monday presented NEDA’s seven-year national climate change action plans and reiterated the need to “keep temperature rise below 1.5 degrees celsius above pre-industrial levels” as the “rate of global warming is still unprecedented.”

She said it is possible to achieve the target since global warming is influenced by human activities, but urged both the public and private sectors to “act fast” since “we are likely to reach 1.5 degrees celsius of warming within the next two decades.”

Based on the 2021 Climate Risk Index, the Philippines is the fourth most affected by extreme climate change disturbances while the Philippine Statistics Authority said 98 percent of total damages between 2010 and 2019 are “caused by climate-related hazards”.

As such NEDA has been recommending priorities via sectors to mitigate climate change, especially in the energy and transport sector, agriculture, forestry and land use, as well as waste and industry, water and infrastructure. In terms of greenhouse gases emissions (GHG), the Philippines only contributed 0.40 percent to total historical GHG emissions in 1990 to 2018. This is lower than the 0.52 percent global average, said Sombillo.

Chua said they have backed and are trying to “fully liberalize” all renewable energies, tidal, solar and wind. “The EDC (Economic Development Committee) cluster has a resolution pushing for that (to) create better balance between dirty sources of energy and the cleaner ones,” he said.

Chua said they are supporting the electric vehicle law and that NEDA is “in line with proposal to have a tax on single-use plastics especially water bottles because these has reached the tummies of turtles as I’ve been told.”

“On smart infra, we want to use digital technologies. We want to have a policy on masterplans so that all our infra are well-thought out, that they connect really the transport with the urban planning, with the land use, with the water use, issue on population and the demographic, and congestion,” he said.

He also added that NEDA has been ensuring that all infrastructure projects are “planned very well and not just accepting unsolicited proposals that are totally out of the scope of our plans.”

Chua was first tapped to serve the government in 2016, first as finance undersecretary before moving to NEDA as its chief in 2020, during the height of the pandemic.

He has confirmed Monday that so far, he has not received any offers to stay on as economic official under the Marcos government. “No offer but will study full-time to be more relevant,” he told reporters.

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