By Rodne Rodiño Galicha
The most recent domestic climate finance mechanism signed into law by President Benigno S. Aquino III in 2012 is Republic Act 10174: An Act Establishing the People’s Survival Fund to Provide Long-Term Finance Streams to Enable the Government to Effectively Address the Problem of Climate Change, Amending for the Purpose Republic Act No. 9729, Otherwise Known as the “Climate Change Act of 2009”, and for Other Purposes.
Called briefly as the People’s Survival Fund or Super Fund as some legislators describe it, the law provides P1 billion for climate change adaptation programs and projects to be accessed by local government and organizations accredited by the Climate Change Commission. The funding is to be included in the General Appropriations Act (GAA) which may be supplemented by donations, endowments, grants and contributions.
According to the CCC, the PSF can be used for adaptation activities, where sufficient information is available to warrant such activities, in the areas of water resources management, land management, agriculture and fisheries, health, infrastructure development, natural ecosystems including mountainous and coastal ecosystems; improvement of the monitoring of vector-borne diseases triggered by climate change, and in this context improving disease control and prevention; forecasting and early warning systems as part of preparedness for climate-related hazards; supporting institutional development, for local governments, in partnership with local communities and civil society groups, for preventive measures, planning, preparedness and management of impacts relating to climate change, including contingency planning, in particular, for droughts and floods in areas prone to extreme climate events; strengthening existing, and where needed, establish regional centers and information networks to support climate change adaptation initiatives and projects; serving as a guarantee for risk insurance needs for farmers, agricultural workers and other stakeholders; and community adaptation support programs by local organizations accredited by the CCC. Further, the fund shall be suppletory to any annual appropriations allocated by relevant government agencies for climate change-related programs and projects and by local government units; and shall encourage counterpart funding arrangements among local governments, community organizations, the private sector, and other entities.
To ensure proper management of this adaptation fund, the law mandates the formation of the PSF Board which shall promulgate policies that will maintain the fiduciary character of the Board; provide overall strategic guidance in the management and use of the fund including, but not limited to, the development of funding windows for various adaptation activities, including counterpart funding arrangements, and guidelines for project assessment, approval and evaluation; develop social, financial and environmental safeguards to be used in project implementation; identify additional sources for the fund; issue final approval of projects for the use of the fund; adopt a conflict of interest policy to ensure that board members will not vote on projects if they have a direct stake therein; and ensure an independent third party evaluation and auditing of activities supported by the fund, taking into consideration the principles of transparency and accountability, and government accounting and auditing rules and regulations.
Hence, in fiscal years 2013 and 2014, the Congress approved a total of P1 billion, P500 million for each year. In 2015 GAA, P1 billion was included. This totals a P2 billion allotment since 2013.
In a recent hearing conducted by the newly created Special Committee on Climate Change at the House of Representatives being chaired by Ako Bicol Partylist Representative Rodel Batocabe, the members of the committee asked for the whereabouts of the P2- billion fund and how it was disbursed since the PSF was signed by President Aquino in 2012. The legislators contended that this could have been used and maximized by local communities to minimize and mitigate the effects of climate change in their areas through adaptation programs and projects.
A representative of the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) clarified that the total of P 1 billion for 2013 and 2014 was classified as “unprogrammed” in the GAA simply because there were no programs nor projects submitted yet. However, in another instance, the CCC said that the DBM would still look for the source of the fund.
But where is the fund now? The DBM during the hearing said that the P1 billion (2013 and 2014 appropriations) out of the P2 billion is now gone for it was not used and was classified as unprogrammed. Was it possible to access that fund that time? DBM’s answer was a big yes but disbursement was not possible because there were no project proposals and there was no approved Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) of the law. Hence, the only remaining fund which can be possibly accessed this year is Php 1 billion.
Early this year, the CCC announced that the P1 billion climate finance was already ready to be accessed and the PSF Board approved the selection criteria for LGUs. The criteria includes location in one of the 18 major river basins and key biodiversity areas, high poverty incidence, exposure to climate/disaster risks, and a Seal of Good Governance by the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG). Further, interconnected risk among cities or municipalities will also be considered; and flexibility to areas which are affected by extreme weather events.
It can be recalled that the signed IRR has been submitted to the Office of the President in May 2013, eight months after the signing of the law. No definite action was taken since then. The CCC said that the Malacanang had called for a meeting on the IRR this year but it did not materialize.
In the light of the inaction of the president on the approval of the IRR, legal experts say that after 30 days, it is deemed approved and can be implemented days after its publication.
Why is it that President Aquino has been unable sign the IRR since 2013? If 30 days lapsed, why is it that the concerned agency was unable to publish it?
We are expecting intensified El Nino and rainy season is fast approaching. Extreme typhoons may be coming due to climate crisis. We have lost P1 billion of the PSF and we haven’t maximized the appropriated P1 billion this year.
Many LGUs may have formulated their Local Climate Change Action Plans which backs up their adaptation programs and projects, but the PSF law has no IRR. What does it mean?
Mr. President, when will you sign the Implementing Rules and Regulations of the People’s Survival Fund law?
Rodne Galicha is the country manager of The Climate Reality Project and steering committee member of Aksyon Klima Pilipinas. He blogs atwww.rodgalicha.com.