What is it about dysfunction that comes so easily to the Philippines?
I spent a little time researching Philippine initiatives on climate change. I am fascinated by global warming and the climate changes it is producing, real time, in our lifetimes. Al Gore won the Nobel Prize a few years ago for his work to elevate awareness. Skeptics exist, mainly those who want to make money and are willing to sell our kids down the pike betting that the relentless uptick in global temperatures is merely balmy weather.
The Philippines sits right smack in the middle of Typhoon Alley and faces a geo-logistical nightmare to manage food, energy and water for 7,000 islands. Wait until half of Mindanao turns to desert. You might think climate change would be a priority.
And it is, in the tried and true way of Filipino bluster and neglect, useless engagement and waste, incomprehensible stupidity and zero achievement.
President Arroyo signed into law the Climate Change Act of 2009. February 9, 2009. Lots of pomp, circumstance and photos of the little lady being progressive. The Act created the Climate Change Commission, gave the Commission 50 million pesos to get started, and ordered that a “Framework Strategy” be developed within six months.
Sounds good, eh? Crisp, authoritative, competent, forward looking, driving the Philippines into the modern era of climate change awareness and response.
Ummmm, not quite.
First of all, check out this language in the Act:
“It shall be the policy of the state to incorporate a gender-sensitive, pro-children and pro-poor perspective in all climate change and renewable energy efforts, plans and programs.”
What does gender have to do with rising seas, more intense storms and changing micro-climates within the Philippines?
But sure enough, there in the mandate to the Commission for development of the Framework Strategy, last item, as if they were scratching their heads and trying to figure what this rhinoceros is doing in the playpen, you will find:
Whatever the frick that means. Now I guess I had better go back and read Al Gore's writings again, as I don't recall that global warming degraded our gender sensitivity, but perhaps there was some wayward phenomenon caused by too much wind or melting icebergs in the tropics that I fail to recall.
Oh, and catch the make-up of the Commission. It is chaired by the President, as if she (he now) did not have enough to do without organizing the agenda for the nation's climate change initiatives. Rounding out the Commission are three people the President appoints. That is the Commission. Manny, Moe and Curly . . . led by Groucho in drag.
I figure it was an honor to be appointed a Commissioner and be in such close proximity to P 50 million.
There is an Advisory Board of 23 members . . . essentially the President's Cabinet members plus a throw-in or two. High level. Busy people. They need this headache like another Ondoy roaring through the Intramuros. They probably get a few spiffs from the fund, too.
The last time 23 people got together and recommended anything useful was when the camel emerged from the work of the Advisory Board on the Creation of a Horse.
But sure enough, the Strategy Framework was eventually developed. It was released in April, 2010, about six months after it was due. It contained 12 very generalized directions and zero . . . count them . . . zero specific actions.
And we wonder why PAGASA is still forecasting weather by throwing rice chaff in the air to test the wind, and predicting rainfall amounts by looking at the color of the clouds over there.
What happened to the P50 million, you figure? That is about P4 million for each general strategic direction written down on paper.
Now you sense my sarcasm getting thicker with each sentence, eh?
A few weeks ago, a Commissioner blew his cork when he found out that a P105 billion loan from France, intended generally but not specifically for climate preparedness, had been dumped into the general budget without the Commission even being advised of the money's arrival. Yes, that is billion with a “b”. The French Embassy, doing a kind two-step, said the money really did not have to be used for a specific purpose and climate change was just guidance. I think the fine print included a French chuckle and a wink about the interest rate, and maybe an “oooo la la, zees peeples ees reeley funny.”
So now the Commission sits as close to dormant as it is possible to get and still have a heart-beat. Its web site reports “Site Under Construction” for any web page of significance. Broke, busted and out to lunch.
And the storms come whistling through. The seas creep upward. And Manila's water disappears until the first typhoon of the season dumps a load.
Nero, thy name is Arroyo . . .
Poor President Aquino, so many needs, so little money left. Perhaps it would be wise to reconsider that “no new taxes” commitment. The longer you hang onto that leaky boat, the deeper the ship sinks into the seas, and the seas are very deep hereabouts and . . . ahahaha . . . getting deeper every year.
By the way, about a year ago, I wrote a plan for addressing climate change in the Philippines. It was three pages, had specific goals and timetables, and took me about four hours. Issue a mandate and format for cities and municipalities to plan for climate change. Measure elevations and map them. Revise zoning. Evaluate dikes vs relocation for low-lying areas. Prioritize food and water sourcing. Revise building codes. Get the houses out of the runoff drainage channels. That sort of thing.
But I would not be so presumptuous or arrogant as to lay this thinking across the table for the Philippine Government to consider. Like the Anti-Pinoy web site, these ego-barons tend to resist outside thinking, preferring to bask in their own crustacean thinking . . . which is mainly focused on the glory of how well they look in their own eyes.
Truly, it is best not to turn over rocks around here. Nothing but snakes and spiders and gargantuan centipedes crawl out from under them.