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Philippine braggadocio, then and now

I’m starting to like this President, even as I will continue to shout to high heavens that – to revise a popular meme in the US these days – “poor lives matter,” and even “drug suspects’ lives matter.”

I thought I belonged to a tiny group of realists when I vociferously questioned the country’s pledge under the Paris Agreement on climate change in December 2015 to reduce our pollution levels by 70 percent by 2030.

Especially given the presence of the noisy “greenies” in the country, then President Benigno S. Aquino 3rd was praised lavishly here for leading the world in promising a bold cut in our carbon footprint.

The praise then was something like the praise Aquino is now getting for filing and winning the arbitration case at the Permanent Court of Arbitration against China over its intrusions in the South China Sea. Indeed, the similarity is that in both cases, many Filipinos were patting Aquino and themselves on the back for being the heroes in leading the world toward some noble cause — even if that would deeply hurt us, especially our economy. Indeed, we seem to have a predilection for braggadocio.

It was a pleasant surprise, therefore, that President Rodrigo Duterte was reported to have said he was not honoring the Philippine pledge made in Paris last year, and that the pledge was “stupid.” Duterte was quoted: “We have not reached the age of industrialization. But you are trying to stymie [our growth] with an agreement that says you can only go up to here,” he added. “That’s stupid. I will not honor that.”

That’s exactly what I was arguing for in 2015. To explain this important issue and give you, dear readers, a flavor of those times when everyone was cheering the Philippine pledge and to emphasize that Duterte took a bold, contradictory stance against mob mentality, let me recall my column published six months ago as follows:

December 14, 2015: Something must be wrong with the state of the Philippine press. The three biggest broadsheets all had banner headlines on the United Nations-led climate change agreement signed by nearly 200 countries in Paris the other day. The Philippine Star, gushed: “Climate deal unveiled, a historic turning point.” The Philippine Daily Inquirer wrote: “Paris talks in last stretch.” The Manila Bulletin’s: “Landmark climate deal up for approval.”
climate20160720Surprisingly, the, ahem, best newspaper in the country, this newspaper, didn’t have any news report on the “landmark, historic deal.” Its banner was on Fil-Am boxer Nonito Donaire’s victory over a Mexican challenger.

My beef with the three papers that did report the climate change deal is this: Why am I reading all these dispatches from Paris by foreign news agencies, which would be the same stories I’d be reading if I were an American or an Australian living in New York or Sydney? A newspaper in one country by definition talks of what interests the citizens of that country.

Agreement’s significance
The agreement’s significance was that the participating countries – especially the big two polluters China and the US – agreed to curb the increase in global temperature to less than 2 degrees centigrade above pre-industrial levels and pursue efforts to even limit it to 1.5 degrees.

As important as that agreed-upon target is that every nation had pledged or will pledge exactly by how much they would reduce pollution in their countries. These will even be recorded, and made publicly available, in an official UN registry.

So naturally, as a Filipino, the information I wanted was: What did this government pledge for climate change?

I read twice, thrice the articles on it by the three broadsheets, and searched their newspapers: There is no report at all what the hell did the Philippines under Aquino pledge to contribute to reducing global warming.

A Facebook friend, dean of the Ateneo School of Government Antonio La Viña, had several-on-the-ground posts on the conference, including selfies with delegates from all over the world on his FB wall. It was high drama, his posts implied. He and his fellow “negotiators” were burning the midnight oil on the draft agreement, negotiating with other countries to accept it. Wow! Did the Philippines, which accounts for a miniscule 0.3 percent of the world’s CO2 emissions, just save the world?

The Philippine Daily Inquirer’s columnist John Nery, who was in Paris, devoted an entire article on La Viña’s excitement that the term “climate justice” was in the text of the draft agreement. (Yes, it was mentioned once in the 7,344-word agreement and in a by-the-way-tone: “noting the importance for some of the concept of climate justice.”)

But darn, there was no report from them what the Philippine pledge was. I couldn’t even find what this government pledged in behalf of all of us on the website of the Commission on Climate Change.

It took a lot of googling and several calls to my sources to find out what the Philippine pledge was. The Philippines and many other countries, including the US and China, submitted their promises in October and November in preparation for the Paris convention. The Philippines submitted its pledge on Oct. 1.

Empty braggadocio
Finally, I read the Philippine pledge: It smacks of this government’s and its NGO allies’ kind of empty braggadocio. And worse.

This government pledged to reduce its pollution levels by 70 percent by 2030. (Technically, all emissions from all sectors, including the result of changes, land use, land use change and forestry, and including those from industrial, energy and agricultural emissions.)

That is really the kind of promise Aquino gave to the MILF in 2011 in his obsession to win the Nobel Prize.

In comparison, Thailand pledged to lower its emissions only by 20 percent, and Indonesia by 29 percent. The three biggest polluters that make up half of carbon emissions in the world – China, the United States and India – pledged reductions of 24 percent, 15.5 percent and 6.4 percent, respectively.

Are we pretending to be a developed country? The crux of the controversy here – everyone wishes for a clean planet – is that non-industrial countries, and China and Russia include themselves in this category, allege that the industrial countries led by the US polluted the planet many decades ago, and that pollution is the price we now have to pay for those countries’ economic growth. Why should the developing countries, especially China and India, be handicapped now in their industrialization? I myself am wondering why the US pledged only a 15.5 percent reduction in its emissions, when it is the world’s richest nation that can afford to reduce its pollution drastically, as Europe in the past decades has done. Germany, for instance, accounts for only 2.2 percent of CO2 emissions, while Italy and France account for a mere 0.9 percent each.

We contribute only 0.3 percent of the global CO2 emissions, yet we pledged to reduce that by 70 percent. (Our problem of pollution is really limited to that in Metro Manila.)

The government must have a reason for that 70 percent pledge. That hollow-sounding promise has been graded “adequate” by environmental groups, such as the Climate Action Tracker. Expect Aquino to boast about that.

I don’t think there is any other country that pledged a reduction by anything more than 30 percent. What would that make us look like? High-school braggarts?


This Post Has 14 Comments

  1. Jun Lugmok

    Centuries ago there were lot of climate change and obviously has nothing to do with carbon emission.

  2. leon

    Sir Tiglao, what do you expect sa kayabangan ng maraming Pinoys. Kung magsasalita at pumorma ay nabili naundo. They are blinded and fooled by what they saw and heard from the yellow media. Imagine, Flor Contemplacion ginawang bayani out of the poor and murdered Delia Maga. What a really damaged culture we have become.

  3. Klay Met Ching

    It’s about math.
    Not knowing the concept of weighted averages led to the 70% commitment.

    It’s about vision.
    Blurred, myopic vision led the emissaries to think that the best environmental-friendly road towards 2030 is also the shortest distance to take which is the DAANG-MATUWID. No one dared to extrapolate that the DAANG-PATAWID is about to cross the South China Sea come May 2016.

    It’s about belief and scientific knowledge.
    Concluding that 70% pollution reduction by Philippine industries would lead to a 70% decrease in calamities (floods, typhoons, La Nina, El Nino) visiting the country by 2030 has never been a part of our General Science books. Whoever made that conclusion must be a Daang Matuwid cabinet member.

  4. ernie del rosario

    Noynoy WAS the worse INCONVENIENT TRUTH the nation has ever been inflicted with !

  5. freddie

    Carbon emmission is needed by the plants. Climate change is a normal occurence in our solar system. Fear mongering is made by the CIA/globalists so that countries will be taxed for carbon taxes. Ask that to governments of Australia and Austria.

    CO2 is very well needed by the plants. The answer for this is greening the planet.
    See Edward Snowden’s leaked CIA/NSA information.

  6. Migs Doromal

    Hello, RT. Glad to know you are beginning to like Digong.

    Come on board. You are welcome.

  7. red planet

    THIS proves that Pnoy is sadistically insane and wants to keep Filipinos impoverished and back-ward. Does anybody also remember that he made RP pay 1 billion dollars to the IMF to bail out the Greece from their economic crisis, where are his priorities? Makes one suspect he gets kickbacks from industrialized countries, or All Gore to set the 70% RP commitment and inflict burdensome carbon tax that will just add to the Filipinos suffering.

    AND how can the mainstream media not question any of this? Is investigative journalism dead in the RP?

    DO realize that we can only meet the GHG reduction if we use the Marcos Bataan Power plant NOW!

  8. joros

    You see from the start pres. Digong has the balls to defy this highly developed countries to reduce CO2 emissions by using his common sense. 0.3 na nga lang ang inilalabas natin pollution gusto pang bawasan ng Abnoy dati sa malacanang. The biggest mistake the Filipino ever made making Abnoy president.

  9. canuto

    I think the number 70 was mistakenly offered as a pledge, when the actual intention was to tell the world the level of the Aquino government’s IQ.

    1. Roger Sy

      Then, 70 as a number would have been too low, if IQ meant ‘Indifference Quotient’ of the past Aquino government. And, PNoy’s common sense had long been known to be non-existent.

    2. nimrod

      With due respect I would rather say Aquino’s IQ only, …… no country pledged a reduction by more than 30%

  10. Rio Legaspi

    What can we expect in all our officials except weakness in dealing with others. Their interest is the interest of the counterparts! Indeed they are not synchronize! Another altruistic style of governance.

  11. Domingo

    Amen to this column Mr Tiglao! I have taken the same position in my previous comments and I am happy to be among people like you and the president (the current one not the previous dolt) who are realists about this matter. Again bravo keep up the good and relevant observations sir.

  12. Gerard

    Agree with the views of the writer. The President has also clearly laid down his priority of building on industry without being handicapped by the pledge in this agreement.

    On another note, Mr. Tiglao, please continue to reiterate that “poor lives matter”. While we appreciate the efforts of the President to curtail the drug problem, this should not in any way lead to the poor being treated on a different level from the real controllers of the drug world.

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