MANILA, Philippines?The country?s main negotiator for climate change compensation has left a huge carbon footprint because of his frequent trips overseas, the Senate has found.
The Senate committee on climate change Wednesday urged former Sen. Heherson Alvarez, who snubbed its hearing, ?to limit his trips and leave the talks to our negotiators abroad? so he could meet with the fisherfolk, farmers and other sectors affected by global warming.
Sen. Loren Legarda, chair of the committee, said Alvarez could give the Senate an update on the negotiations for compensation, specifically the United Nations Adaptation Fund, and coordinate the climate change strategy with local government agencies.
Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile complained about the failure of Alvarez and other officials of the Philippine Climate Change Commission to ?filter? all the information that Congress needed to know so the country could tap international funds for countries affected by climate change.
?You exist around the world to watch these things and filter these information to us. If you do not understand that then what is the purpose of supporting you with tax money? To attend cocktails in embassies abroad?? Enrile asked.
Legarda also asked the two climate change officials who attended the hearing, Commissioners Naderev Sano and Lucille Sering, to tell Alvarez to be ready with an update on the body?s activities at the next hearing.
Legarda said she could not understand why the commission had not come up with an action plan, which the resource persons at the hearing noted was the key to opening up the country?s access to climate change compensation funds.
Legarda said President Aquino should convene the commission soon and order its members, who have a fixed term of six years, to speed up its work. The President is the chair of the commission, while Alvarez is the vice chair.
In a phone interview, Alvarez said the senators ?misunderstood? his job as the country?s main negotiator for climate change impact compensation due to their lack of ?deep appreciation? of the issues.
Alvarez said that as the de facto climate change czar, who claimed to have started this advocacy as early as 1995, he had to attend international summits every three months on top of the regular conferences in other countries.
Alvarez said he was also asked by then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to accompany her on foreign trips, including her meeting with US President Barack Obama last year, to provide her with advice on climate change.
Alvarez assured the Senate that the commission would finish the action plan within the deadline, or eight months from now.
Funds not available
Alvarez said the body still had no money because the international funds were still not available to affected countries.
Alvarez said these differences were all part of the body?s ?growing process? as he blamed the perceived rift with his fellow commissioners on the lack of budget for each member.
Alvarez said Congress appropriated P38 million for his own budget in 2009 and 2010 (of which only P18 million is left) while Sering and Sano did not have any.
?They asked for a share of the budget but I could not do that because they had no specific item yet,? he said.
He noted that being a presidential commission, the body could only meet if the President was present.