Thursday, December 9, 2010

In CNN Eco Solutions:
Driving ambitions for electric vehicles in Philippines

089 December 2010
By Dean Irvine, CNN

Manila, Philippines (CNN) -- Quietly cutting through the chronic traffic of Manila, the sprawling capital city of Philippines, is a fleet of brightly colored electric vehicles.

Can these e-jeepneys -- eco-friendly versions of the iconic Philippine form of public transport -- lead the country towards a clean, green future?

Red Constantino believes so. He's the Executive Director of the Institute of Climate and Sustainable Cities, the NGO behind the 20 vehicles currently driving around the area of Makati.

"The project was crafted as an element of an integrated program," he said.

"The whole idea was to create a full loop: create energy from waste without burning it, capture the methane, and transform it into electricity which will then power the vehicles. Something that is very replicable that other cities can see and improve on."

While that full loop is yet to be realized, the e-jeepneys have been running two routes for just over a year, powered by old-fashioned lead-acid batteries.

It means the charge time and range of the vehicles are not as impressive as electric vehicles powered by lithium-ion cells; e-jeepney top speeds aren't more than 30 kmph and full charging can take eight hours.

But waiting for more expensive and efficient technologies to come down in price wasn't as important as simply getting an effective project up and running, believes Constantino.

"We didn't think that the challenges lay in the technology but in the application," he said.

With around 70% of the e-jeepneys made locally or in the Philippines, another benefit of the project is helping to grow local industry.

Just getting the vehicles on the road was a challenge in itself that took nearly two years as new regulations had to be made and bureaucratic snarl-ups negotiated.

"It took us that long just to get registration plates because the papers required (the vehicle) to have a tailpipe and an engine number which electric vehicles don't have, and so on and so forth," said Constantino.

"The next stage was to prove technological viability and function normally and by normal people."

Constantino says that passengers and drivers of the old diesel-powered jeepneys have been very supportive. The e-jeepneys have been full on the routes they run, he says (possibly in large part because they are free), while initially skeptical, jeepney drivers would ask questions about how well the new electric variety would fare driving through flooded streets -- a common hazard in the tropical city.

The main roadblocks to electric vehicles won't be from commuters or drivers, says Constantino, but a lack of private enterprise and funding opportunities.

Money, however, is finding its way to eco-friendly transport projects across the Philippines.

Sparked by a recent proposal by the Philippines Department of Environment and Natural Resources to reduce the pollution in Metro Manila by 30% in 2011, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) is supporting a project to make the city's tricycle taxis eco-friendly.

"I believe this is going to be a game changer," said Sohail Hasnie, the ADB's Principle Energy Specialist for Southeast Asia.

The ADB's plan is to start small but quickly grow in ambition.

Beginning with 20 vehicles deployed next month in Mandaluyong, another area of Manila, the plan is to scale up to 20,000 tricycles across the city by the middle of next year.

Powering the nation's 3.5 million trikes by clean, renewable energy would stop 10 million tons of CO2 currently being emitted each year, according to the ADB.

Elsewhere Edward Hagadorn, mayor of Puerto Princesa, the capital city on the island of Palawan, is also looking to turn all the city's tricycles electric by 2013.

"The same solutions apply to bigger cities, like Manila, it's just about putting in your political will and then getting the community to agree and support the program," he said.

Whether or not all the projects are going the right way to provide clean, green transport is debatable.

The ADB funded tricycles will have lithium-ion batteries, and Hasnie describes the widespread use of the lead-acid variety as used in the Makati e-jeepneys as an "environmental disaster."

Constantino is similarly skeptical of some of the ADB's plans suggesting "they are pulling things in a different direction" by providing sizable grants to small projects that could make electric vehicles seem like gimmicks.

However, with a new e-jeepney route set to open next month, Constantino is bullish that the future of transport in Manila and other cities will be electric, one way or another.

"Electric vehicles are here to stay, so long as they are intended for public application they will endure and expand." #


Thursday, November 25, 2010

E-vehicles, the next big thing?
November 25, 2010, Updated as of 11/26/2010 3:27 AM

MANILA, Philippines – Electric vehicles (E-vehicles) could be the next big thing in the country’s automotive industry, advocates and businessmen believe.

Leading figures from the private sector, the government, non-government organizations (NGOs), and the academe have vowed to fast-track and scale up the development of e-vehicles in the country.

They made the vow at the conclusion on Wednesday of the first national summit on e-vehicles.

“The market for electric vehicles in the Philippines is big enough for all. In Mindanao, the potential is particularly promising,” said Ariel Torres, chief executive officer of Alternative Modern Transport.

His company co-sponsored the 2-day summit, which secured support from more than 250 participants from national agencies, city governments, banks, businesses, civil society groups, and international industry associations.

The summit took place at Meralco, which helped put together the meeting.

“The summit ended on a full charge, with robust plans, new alliances and investor interest,” said Red Constantino, executive director of the Institute for Climate and Sustainable Cities (iCSC).

“This gathering was about solutions and all representatives from the public and private sector contributed positively, from titans of local industry to jeepney driver associations,” he added.

Constantino’s group has already rolled out e-jeepneys in Makati City and Puerto Princesa City.

The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) co-organized the summit.

“Harnessing the potential of the market is critical to the country’s response to the climate crisis. Sustainable transport is a key component that can greatly help manage climate change risks and at the same time contribute to the development goals of the Philippines,” said WWF climate change head Gia Ibay.

Top officials who graced the event include Vice-President Jejomar Binay, Meralco president Manuel Pangilinan, and Transportation and Communications Undersecretary Aristotle Batuhan.

Batuhan opened the event’s second day, which tackled regulatory and financing issues, along with challenges posed by battery development and charging stations. #
Electric vehicle program gets boost from summit
Ayen Infante, The Daily Tribune

Pasig City, November 25, 2010 - Pledges from leading figures from the private sector, the government, non-government organizations (NGOs) and the academe to scale up and accelerate electric vehicle development were made during the conclusion yesterday of the country’s first electric vehicle summit.

“The summit ended on a full charge, with robust plans, new alliances and investor interest. This gathering was about solutions and all representatives from the public and private sector contributed positively, from titans of local industry to jeepney driver associations,” Red Constantino, executive director of the Institute for Climate and Sustainable Cities, said.

Gia Ibay, climate change head of the World Wide Fund for Nature, which co-organized the event, says, “Harnessing the potential of the market is critical to the country’s response to the climate crisis. Sustainable transport is a key component that can greatly help manage climate change risks and at the same time contribute to the development goals of the Philippines.”

Aiming to craft a long-term road map for the electric vehicle industry, the two-day summit garnered support from over 250 participants from national agencies, city governments, banks and businesses, civil society groups and international industry associations. The summit took place at Meralco, which helped put together the meeting.

Meralco president Manuel Pangilinan opened the event followed by Vice President Jejomar Binay, who delivered the summit’s keynote speech.

“The market for electric vehicles in the Philippines is big enough for all. In Mindanao, the potential is particularly promising,” notes Ariel Torres, CEO of Alternative Modern Transport, a summit sponsor.

Transportation and Communications Undersecretary Aristotle Batuhan opened the event’s second day, which tackled regulatory and financing issues, along with challenges posed by battery development and charging stations. #

Photo by Taweng Attunaga/iCSC
Meralco commits to assist e-vehicle program
Paul Anthony A. Isla, 23 November 2010

FINANCING electric jeepneys and tricycles remain to be the biggest challenge most operators face, Red Constantino, executive director of the Institute of Climate and Sustainable Cities (iCSC) said on Tuesday.

“The biggest challenge is in the realm of financing. People can go to banks and get financing for SUVs at the expense of polluting the environment,” Constantino said at the sidelines of the First Philippine Electric Vehicle Summit.

He also pointed out that it’s high time local commercial banks open closed windows of lending opportunities for private sector, electric jeepney and tricycle operators and local government.

Constantino said lending to electric- vehicle operators enables the owners and other stakeholders to spread out the cost and accelerate the deployment of electric-vehicle applications.

He added that the government also plays a huge role in the program.

“Any signal it provides is something the private sector will respond to. For us, the electric vehicles program is an opportunity to making the solutions for tomorrow available to Filipinos today,” he added.

Vice President Jejomar Binay said it took two years to register the electric jeepneys plying around Makati City with the Land Transportation Office.

Binay said the local transportation regulatory body still has lots of room for improvement, particularly for electric vehicles.

Manuel V. Pangilinan, Manila Electric Co. (Meralco) president and chief executive, committed to help finance the country’s electric-vehicle program.

Pangilinan said Vincent Perez, former Energy secretary and now World Wide Fund-Philippines (WWF-Philippines) chairman, estimated that the program would need 5 million.

“Perez mentioned an amount of 5 million needed for three years, I’m not sure, though if that’s in dollars or pesos,” the Meralco president said in jest.

Pangilinan quickly added that Meralco would definitely help, particularly a local industry that develops e-jeepneys and e-tricycles.

He also noted that Meralco could look into setting up charging stations where electric vehicles could recharge their batteries and they will have enough supply to meet the demand for electricity. #

Photo by Nonoy Lacza/BusinessMirror
Coming soon: commercial use of e-jeepneys
By Jessica Anne D. Hermosa, Senior Reporter
BusinessWorld, November 23, 2010

ELECTRIC JEEPNEYS may soon become more commonplace as proponents are looking at commercial use of the so-called "green" transports roughly a year after they first started plying public roads.

The government is poised to issue the first franchise next year, speakers at yesterday’s Electric Vehicle Summit claimed, thus allowing operators to run e-jeepneys for profit.

Coupled with the cheaper option of retrofitting existing jeepneys instead of buying brand new, this should prod drivers and operators to make the shift, they added.

But the speakers also continued to call for government incentives, banking support, and even public readiness to pay a premium to complete the transition.

"Lately, we’ve developed conversion. It’s a concept we want to use on passenger jeepneys," said Ferdinand I. Raquelsantos, president of electric jeepney assembler PhUV, Inc., at the event.

Interested jeepney owners need to shell out just P250,000 to have an electric system installed instead of the P625,000 for a brand new battery-powered vehicle, Mr. Raquelsantos said.

With savings of P3.15 per kilometer from nixing diesel, he claimed that electric jeepney operators would be able to earn back their investment in three years, thereafter enjoying a doubling of revenues.

The government, in turn, is expected to issue the first electric jeepney franchise next year to allow their commercial use, said Renato Redentor Constantino, director of the Filipino nonprofit Institute for Climate and Sustainable Cities, at the sidelines of the event.

While the vehicles have been allowed to take to public roads, the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board has yet to authorize drivers to collect fares from their operation, Mr. Constantino explained.

This is why the e-jeepney fleet currently running on "green routes" in the Makati business district continuous to offer free rides, he told BusinessWorld, with revenues from advertising on the vehicles’ bodies and donations funding the effort in the meantime.

"Now we’re in the commercial viability phase. We’re on the verge of launching the first electric vehicle franchise," Mr. Constantino said.

Financing, however, still remains a hurdle with jeepney operators reluctant to make an investment, the speakers said.

"The biggest challenge lies in the realm of financing. People can go to banks to get financing for SUVs (sport utility vehicles). It should be time enough for banks to finance electric vehicles too," Mr. Constantino said.

Various schemes were proposed, ranging from using tradeable carbon credits as bank collateral to even hiking household power rates to subsidize the vehicles.

"[The] government is a huge player itself. The signals it provides is something the private sector will respond to," Mr. Constantino said.

The Metro Manila Development Authority, for instance, could sweeten the transition by exempting electric jeepneys from the color-coding scheme, Mr. Raquelsantos said. Income tax holidays for manufacturers would also help lower the vehicles’ prices, he added.

The country’s largest power distributor, Manila Electric Co., even heaped its support with a vague promise "to help" from its CEO Manuel V. Pangilinan, who declined to elaborate.

"More than technology, its’ about partnership and our ability to work together," Mr. Constantino said. #

Photo By Jonathan L. Cellon
PNoy lauded for replacing Alvarez as CCC vice chair
Danilova Molintas, November 22, 2010

A nonprofit group actively working with government to shape fair climate change and sustainable development policies in the Philippines praised President Benigno Aquino III for replacing former Sen. Heherson Alvarez as vice chairman of the Climate Change Commission (CCC).

Lawyer Mary Ann Lucille Sering, former undersecretary of the environment department, took her oath Monday afternoon as the new CCC vice chairperson, in ceremonies administered by the President in Malacañang.

“We applaud the President for his quick action even as we challenge the (Commission’s) new leadership to decisively arrest the governance chaos that has for far too long plagued the administration of climate finance, which enters the country's coffers from abroad," said Red Constantino, director of the Institute for Climate and Sustainable Cities (iCSC).

"It is only proper that PNoy exercises a free hand in choosing his alter ego in the CCC, which he heads as the chairperson," Constantino said.

iCSC, which works on sustainable energy solutions and fair climate policy issues, leads the campaign to establish direct-access driven, just, long-term adaptation finance for the country’s most vulnerable communities.

The group is also the proponent of the pioneering Climate-Friendly Cities (CFC) initiative that integrates waste management, energy generation and sustainable transport programs for sustainable, climate-resilient city and community development.

The popular electric jeepneys, or eJeepneys that ply Makati and other cities, is a central part of the CFC initiative.

Alvarez had been widely criticized by the climate change groups for “usurping authority’ and acting “unilaterally" on climate change issues.

Budget Secretary Florencio Abad vowed on Nov. 17 to ask the President to step into the long-simmering leadership crisis at the CCC.

GMANews.TV tried contacting Alvarez for his reaction to no avail.


With a new vice chairperson appointed to the CCC, Constantino said that climate change groups have more hope that their issues will be prioritized in the Aquino administration's planning and budgetary processes.

“Kailangan ng bayan ng depensa laban sa climate change (the country needs a defense against climate change), and with the changes in the Commission, the Aquino government has taken a major step forward," Constantino said.

“Commissioner Sering brings with her a formidable expertise in management and a nuanced understanding of climate negotiations, which will be critical during the next round of talks in Cancun, Mexico this December," the iCSC director said.

“We also hope she will champion the People's Survival Fund (PSF) bill which was filed by Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile and which we hope will be certified by PNoy as urgent legislation," he said.

HB 3528 or the PSF bill aims to establish a fund dedicated to vulnerable local governments and communities struggling to adapt to the rapidly changing climate."

The PSF is a ‘rewards’ fun: vulnerable localities that craft climate change adaptation projects or plans can access the PSF. The PSF thus incentivizes local climate action."

The funds that make up the PSF can come from sources such as portions from Motor Vehicle User’s Charge (road tax), cash dividends from all government-owned and controlled operations, credits earned under the Clean Development Mechanism, and contributions from other private, public, foreign, and local sources.

He also said his group congratulates the government for recognizing that it cannot and should not confront the climate crisis on its own.

“The pursuit of low carbon development and the channeling of finance to vulnerable communities requires the critical collaboration of all Filipinos."

"We hope the new Commission will engage civil society organizations more closely and meaningfully and that there will be more coherence in the body's handling of climate finance.

Not consulting

Earlier, Constantino had taken Alvarez to task for not “consult(ing) anyone, including the President, his fellow CCC commissioners and the other agencies."

Criticisms reached a peak when a mix-up occurred in the official Philippine choice of which nation to endorse to host the 2012 Global Climate Change Summit.

The diplomatic faux pas arose when Alvarez endorsed South Korea as the host of the 2012 summit, when the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) had already endorsed Qatar months earlier.

The 2012 summit on climate change is the 18th annual meeting of nations who have signed the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

The UNFCCC, an international environmental treaty drafted at the 1992 UN Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, aims to reduce greenhouse gases in the atmosphere to levels that would prevent climate change.

Since 1992, nations that have signed the treaty have met annually to discuss the progress of the goals.

South Korea and Qatar have both expressed interest in hosting COP-18.

Alvarez had announced that CCC was inclined to support South Korea, but the DFA had already committed the country’s support for Qatar.

“Alvarez is acting as if he is the Commission," Constantino said. “This is wrong."

“I think he has usurped the authority of the commission and the president for the last time," he added.

Alvarez, who was a former secretary of the agrarian reform and environment departments, as well as Isabela representative and senator, has been widely criticized for allegedly taking over the CCC’s chairmanship and making important decisions without consultations.

Alvarez was appointed by former Pres. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo as Secretary of the CCC, acting as the Vice Chair to the President and Executive Director of the climate change office on Dec. 1, 2009.

The Climate Change Act of 2009 which created the Climate Change Commission designates the President as the chairperson.

Aside from Sering and Alvarez, the other commission members are Naderev "Yeb" Sano, a former climate campaigner at the World Wildlife Fund.

Earlier, Alvarez defended his support of Korea, saying “climate change is a daunting survival issue. For its environment dimension, we expressed our choice of Korea."

“But the matter is yet to be worked out and decided in Cancun," he added.

“This is an issue of engaging and overarching national interest," he noted. “The determination of where the national interest lies in this issue will always be the prerogative of the Chief Executive, and we will always abide by that determination," he said. #

Photo of Commissioner Sering addressing the participants of the EV Summit by Taweng Attunaga/iCSC
‘People’s Survival Fund’ Bill pushed to help victims of climate change
By Gina Abuyuan, November 18, 2010
Yahoo! Southeast Asia

SURIGAO CITY, Surigao – The subject of the film “An Inconvenient Truth,” an award-winning documentary about global warming and the man who made it a buzzword, ex-U.S. vice president Al Gore, is more than a conversation piece here in Mindanao.

It’s a daily reality for those making their living off the land and sea, and whose livelihoods have been adversely affected by climate change.

It’s also the anchor on which a new bill has been written: Known as the People’s Survival Fund (PSF) or HB 3528, the bill aims to ”establish a fund dedicated to vulnerable local governments and communities struggling to adapt to the rapidly changing climate.”

It was filed initially Senator Juan Ponce Enrile, who describes it as a “legacy bill,” as future generations are certain to be impacted by climate change.

Representative and Deputy Speaker Lorenzo “Erin” Tañada III (4th district of Quezon) works closely with Enrile and explained it today to participants in an event entitled ‘Depensa: Climate Adaptation Financing and Risk Reduction Initiatives in Mindanao.’

“The Philippines is one of the highest risk-prone areas in the world,” Tañada says. “The impact of climate change falls most heavily on people who have the LEAST to do with climate change.”

As it is, local governments have to divert funds allotted for education, health, and agriculture, to disaster management. Most funds that come for that purpose are either from charity or aid from foreign governments. “We need a long-term, predictable, and transparent source of funds to make LGUs more resilient,” Tañada said.

According to a statement prepared by Oxfam and iCSC (Institute for Climate and Sustainable Cities), “The PSF is a ‘rewards’ fun: vulnerable localities that craft climate change adaptation projects or plans can access the PSF. The PSF thus incentivizes local climate action.”

Tañada says that the funds that make up the PSF can come from sources such as portions from Motor Vehicle User’s Charge (road tax), cash dividends from all government-owned and controlled operations, credits earned under the Clean Development Mechanism, and contributions from other private, public, foreign, and local sources.

“We want early passage, in current congress,” says iCSC executive director Renato Redentor Constantino. “The next step to be taken is that PNoy must certify it as priority legislation.”

“You may have the best climage change adapation strategy, but the bottomline (is still important),” says Tañada. “If the sources of funding are not made available, our efforts are meaningless.

“Kelangan natin ng pondo sa depensa, depensa para sa climate change. Hindi tayo magpapatalo sa pagbabago ng klima (We need funds for our fight against climate change. We will not be defeated by it.” #

Photo by Jose Enrique Soriano/iCSC. Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives Lorenzo "Erin"Tañadadelivers the keynote address at the landmark launching of Depensa! held in Surigao City last November 18, 2010, a campaign spearheaded by iCSC, Oxfam and Dakila.
Depensa launched in Surigao City
Bong D. Fabe, CBCP News, Business Mirror

SURIGAO City, Nov. 18, 2010 — A community-driven campaign for climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction was launched here with the optimism that Congress passes House Bill 3825 or the ‘People’s Survival Fund (PSF)’ as an urgent measure to allocate much-needed funding to address the damages by disasters occurring in the country.

The campaign, dubbed Depensa, which was spearheaded by Oxfam and the Institute for Climate and Sustainable Cities (iCSC), aims to create high community awareness and action on the need for climate change adaptation and to call on government to take the lead in protecting public welfare and advancing real sustainable development in a climate changing world.

H.B. 3825 seeks to establish a fund dedicated to vulnerable local government and communities struggling to adapt to the rapidly changing climate provided that plans are crafted as to how the identified local communities behave to the climate change adaptation.

"The PSF is critical to communities, who should not have to wait for the occurrence of climate change-induced calamities before they are able to access funds to cope with anticipated climatic impacts,” said HB 3825 author, Congressman Lorenzo Tanada III, who was the guest of honor of the event.

PSF, which is also a ‘rewards’ fund, would be a source of support for activities of the disaster prone communities to conduct activities such as: farming localities to developing a small water impounding projects in anticipation of extreme drought or installing structures that reduce the harm of flashfloods; need to plant other crops that are more resilient to climate change; and coastal communities whose fishing livelihood may be displaced due to the rising sea levels.

“In Mindanao, the impacts of climate change are increasingly felt from extreme weather events that cause floods or severe drought, especially in the areas of Agusan Sur, Agusan Norte, and Sultan Kudarat, adversely affecting agricultural production and settlements. On the other hand, coastal communities in Surigao Sur are in danger of rising sea and tidal levels,” according the Marie Madamba-Nunez of Oxfam.

Oxfam’s Mindanao Program currently supports partners in ensuring that sustainable livelihoods of small rural producers are protected and resilient from natural and human-induced disasters in selected areas in the region.
Climate change impacts in the Philippines are expected to intensify the frequency and severity of extreme weather events, which are projected to hit vulnerable communities, particularly women in rural areas, disproportionately.

Most of the deadliest and damaging typhoons that hit the Philippines occurred in the last two decades, with an estimated cost of over P92 billion in direct damages. Yet the cost of devastation brought about just by typhoons Ondoy and Pepeng to crops, property and infrastructure was estimated to be around P207 Billion. Costs linked to the devastation wrought by typhoon Juan reached almost P12 billion, largely hitting rice production.

“These figures are staggering. If we do not have these destructive typhoons, we could have used it to other projects but are diverted instead to disaster response and rehabilitation,” Tanada said.

"We expect the Depensa! campaign to contribute key lessons and opportunities during this critical time, when government is undertaking discussions about the country's budget and its medium-term development plan," said Red Constantino of ICSC.

Depensa was launched here because this city, as well as almost all provinces and municipalities of Caraga Region, is a disaster-prone area. #

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Notes from a distracted mind
August 22, 2010

At least its not a gray daze. Just a blue funk. Having moved from one fine team to organize another, I think I've done better to organize myself and reestablish some rhythms to writing. But it's been really hard to let go of a few strands of troublemaking  - some call it campaigning -- which has largely encroached on the writing space.

Not that things have been bad. I've actually enjoyed returning to the high octane world of campaigns, hatching plans, bringing big stuff on the screen and into the big picture, getting results that I think will endure. Poking the eyes of bumbling idiots. Having a great time as well catching up with long-time friends, such as Randy and Roel, my two buddies back from my table tennis varsity team days at the Polytechnic Univeristy of the Philippines. In this pic, we're with our coach, former national player Edwin Asis (behind me in white; Roel's in front of me and Randy's behind Coach Asis), who moved to Canada the other month.

Taking out the writing pot from the heating plate of course means less brews. But there are also some benefits. Materials gathered, notes made for longer and more pieces, a lot of drafts that, though unfinished, are on the table waiting for the distracted mind.

I am also happy to work with a good friend, Romil, to design a website dedicated to the things I do as I shift to other gears and use and mix all sorts of basic colors.

New stuff is on the web. I've decided to now post as well not just pieces I've finished but also facets of the work I do, when I'm not writing or painting, or when I'm not contemplating new adventures. I have no idea and can't remember why I tried to separate the mutant's life with terrestrial flight, but this time I'll try to put things together.

On the main page you'll see a spread of six or seven things that reflect the funnies since June I think. It shows the interesting character of the institute I'm part of today. We work on solutions and policy, on internationally significant initiatives and locally relevant things. And it's been great.

I've moved from one international organization to another, thinking my travels would be lesser. It did not go down, but still the work has been fascinating. Taking the eJeepneys project, which is a small part of the Climate-Friendly Cities initiative that my kumare, Ateng Ballesteros, began some years ago, continues to be a source of joy and meaning. There's nothing like working on solutions on the ground, which really helps balance and provide greater meaning to the advocacy side of iCSC's policy work. You also get to work with great people, like the photo above with some of the country's best poets, such as Rayvi Sunico, and the pic below where poets Vim Nadera and Mike Coroza are goofing around with a cardboard rendition of the Berso sa Metro eJeepney, courtesy of good friends from Instituto Cervantes and their literacy campaign.

There should be more updates, therefore, on this The Other Things page that I've set up. But it should be a temporary placement. Hopefully, a more permanent site where visitors don't have to shift to too many pages will be built soon. Let's see what happens.

In the meantime, have a great beer and thanks again for dropping by.


Photos: I reall can't remember now who took which photo, save for the last one with Coroza et al in a funny pose, which I took.


A few thoughts on the previous period
Renato Redentor Constantino
August 22, 2010

Prior to iCSC, I was with Greenpeace for almost a decade, working on climate issues as a regional campaigner with Greenpeace Southeast Asia, covering Thailand, bits of Indonesia and a large part of the Philippines.

I had a great time working on the negotiations, though it's really not my cup of tea - part of campaigning is about "putting out fires" or "igniting fires" in a campaign sense. In the global negos to hammer out a relevant climate treaty with enduring, positive consequences for the planet, troublemaking - both confronting it or being the source of it, is not immediately evident.

But no complaints. Colleagues younger than myself are at the helm now and they're really built and trained for such work, and as a result they're doing far better.

I remember this one bash in Vienna, where the range of emissions reductions was being debated. This was just before the big (or small?) Bali UN climate event, and what was called then as "the range" would prove a crucial incremental step towards laying down a real basis for further negotiations regarding the emissions cuts rich countries had to make.

Here's a blast from the past, courtesy of the coverage of Bloomberg's Mathew Carr in August 31, 2007.

"Industrialized nations," Carr reported, "need to curb emissions by at least 25 percent and as much as 40 percent by 2020 from 1990 levels to stabilize the world's climate, according to conclusions at a United Nations meeting in Vienna," in a news story he filed with the lead "Developed countries should cut emissions by 40% by 2020". There were scores more filed with similar stories.

I do remember saying as a Greenpeace campaigner in the event's closing presser then, a quote carried by Carr and other news agencies, that "The road to Bali is clear, though it's time to switch gears."

The year after, I moved to head the largest network of NGOs and community groups that has been monitoring the policies, projects and programs of the Asian Development Bank since 1992. The group's name -- the NGO Forum on the ADB. It was and remains the leading watchdog and monitoring group that has helped keep at bay many of the destructive lending initiatives of the regional development bank.

My stint as Forum head was to take me to India often - work which I enjoyed immensely due to the companionship and comradeship of great friends and the explicit historicity of the country -- a great house of memory.

The work also brought me to places Central Asia and the Caucasus, an incredibly fascinating world with diverse cultures and from where I've also made what I believe to be life-long friendships.

Another blast from the past - in early May in 2009, the Forum led one of the stronger push-backs against the ADB, which was then trying to leverage a huge capitalization increase from its main donor country shareholders.

With a great advocacy team composed of Jessica, Steph, Tea, Rina, Leak, and Joanna, and a comunications team led by Romil and ably guided by Rico - the savvy, suave media campaigner - and Afif, we registered enough pressure to eventually influence Bank decisions that led to the strengthening of ADB's safeguards and energy policies.

The editorial below by Manila Times reminds me of that period, which Romil, Rico, Afif and I celebrated by getting ourselves cross-eyed with booze on the event's final day in May 6, I think. The whole gang was there too, but the communications group was the one that got punch drunk, including myself.

The editorial title of the Times was "ADB, ‘rebalancing’ and Filipinos". It conveyed a fraction of the anger and frustration from social movements and community groups, in the midst of the ADB's bid for a general capital increase:

The Filipino activist and intellectual Red Constantino said, “The bank is proposing a blinkered, business-as-usual program that will not prevent developing countries from sliding back into poverty but instead is likely to cause environmental destruction and social dislocation.” Other activists slammed ADB plans to partner with private equity funds to advance private sector activity without proper oversight mechanisms. They berated ADB’s and governments’ cynical use of “the current crisis to re-promote discredited large-scale infrastructure-biased development” destructive of the environment and minority communities.

Elsewhere, international news agencies picked up most of our messages and for the coherence of our narrative and the preparations made by the communications team, our stories were picked up by the Associated Press several times, along with Xinhua, Deutsche Press Agency and Agence France Presse.

Here is Stephen Wright, whose story on the ADB's Annual Meet in Bali in 2009 was published by USA Today. Wright used the context we had provided earlier, as we released a barrage of reports indicting the Bank's directions.

In the May 3 story "Asia urged to rethink growth policies," Wright wrote about the clamor that "Asia's governments must spend more on social safety nets and reduce their reliance on export-driven growth even as they grapple with an economic meltdown that will keep tens of millions trapped in poverty, finance officials said Sunday." I had an interview with Wright that day, and the response I gave made it to the story he filed:

"Some hotels hosting conference delegates have nightly rates that are more than a poor family in Asia earns in one year. More than 900 million in Asia live on $1.25 or less a day," Wright wrote, including my response to the context -- "The accommodation is indicative of the bank's efforts in meeting the financial crisis," said Red Constantino, executive director of NGO Forum on ADB — an umbrella group pushing the bank to become more accountable. "There's a wide gap between their rhetoric and what they do in reality."

From as far as the Gulf Daily News, which covered the ADB's $10 billion lending push during the tail-end of the financial crisis last year, the Middle East paper wrote on May 3 that:

Activist organisations have not welcomed the bank's bigger firepower, saying ADB-funded projects often harm the very people they aim to help.

"If not managed well, this 200pc general capital increase could easily translate into a more than 200pc increase in social and environmental harm," said NGO Forum on ADB executive director Red Constantino.

A lot of the results from that period, and the months leading up to March 2010, which is when I moved out of the Forum, can be read here.

I encourage readers to contact the new chief of the Forum, Dr. Avilash Roul, who has since April this year taken over the reins. He cooks a wicked mutton masala, so be a friend if you want additional happiness.

Thanks again for dropping by. #

Damaged ecosystems magnify Asia's killer floods
by Karl Malakunas, Agence France Presse

MANILA, Aug 19, 2010 (AFP) - Climate change may be playing a part in record rains ravaging Asia but environment experts say the destruction of ecosystems is more directly to blame for the severity of killer floods.

Widespread deforestation, the conversion of wetlands to farms or urban sprawl and the clogging up of natural drainage systems with garbage are just some of the factors exacerbating the impacts of the floods, they say.

"You can't just blame nature... humans have encroached on the natural flood plains," said Ganesh Pangare, Bangkok-based regional water and wetlands coordinator with the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

Pangare said better management of flood plains would limit the human and economic costs of natural disasters, such as the recent record rains in Pakistan that killed an estimated 1,400 people.

"You have to ensure that natural infrastructure is protected. Otherwise development in Asia is not sustainable," he said.

Red Constantino, the Manila-based head of the Institute for Climate and Sustainable Cities, said climate change was becoming a convenient way for Asian leaders to excuse themselves when natural disasters struck.

"When there is any big flooding it's become commonplace for climate change to be blamed when in fact many of the problems are fixable at the local level," said Constantino.

"Whether you are in Jakarta or Bangkok or Manila you have a basic issue with bad waste management, bad land management and urban sprawl."

Constantino referred to last year's devastation in Manila when Tropical Storm Ketsana dumped the heaviest rains in four decades on the Philippine capital.

Eighty percent of the city was submerged at the height of the flooding and more than 400 people died.

But although then president Gloria Arroyo highlighted climate change as at fault for the severity of the storm, a host of more direct human factors were to blame for the massive death toll.

Millions of people who built homes along flood plains in recent decades, the destruction of upstream forests and a proliferation of garbage that clogged up waterways all magnified the disaster, according to Constantino.

"Metro Manila is having to deal with the consequences of really bad planning," he said, pointing out the disaster did not lead to any major changes in the city's urban management policies.

Bruce Dunn, an environment specialist with the Asian Development Bank's Regional and Sustainable Development Department, said the destruction of forests across Asia was one of the major magnifiers of flood disasters.

He referred to a study by Australia's Charles Darwin University and the National University of Singapore that found a 10-percent decrease in forests led to the frequency of floods rising by between four and 28 percent.

But, amid a seemingly inexorable path towards ever-worsening damage of Asia's ecosystems, Dunn said there were some examples of improvements.

He pointed to China's reforestation efforts, which began after the country was hit by massive floods in the 1980s.

"At the time there were huge levels of deforestation and almost overnight there was a very rapid policy change," Dunn said.

"Now, in terms of forest cover, Asia has had some increases because of reforestation in China."

Pangare, from the International Union for Conservation of Nature, echoed this theme, saying investment in "natural infrastructure" was the only way to protect people from the impacts of potential climate change-induced floods.

"Building concrete and walls to stop the floods is not the answer," he said.

"You have to invest in natural infrastructure -- forests, river basins, lakes, wetlands." #

Photo by AFP.

Government urged to access climate fund directly, not through WB
Cai U. Ordinario
The Business Mirror
August 16, 2010

THE Institute for Climate and Sustainable Cities (iCSC) is urging the Philippine government to access the United Nations Adaptation Fund (AF) directly instead of going through channels like the Washington-based lender, the World Bank Group.

In a statement sent to the BusinessMirror, the iCSC said there is a proposal to have the $15-million Flood Early Warning System project—implemented by the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) and the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa)---funded by the AF through the World Bank.

The iCSC said the World Bank is trying to push for “more climate loans” instead of the country accessing the multibillion-dollar AF directly by submitting a proposal to the Adaptation Fund Board (AFB) which manages the fund.

The AF is the first financial instrument under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the Kyoto Protocol (KP).

“The World Bank-crafted proposal shows the World Bank inserting itself as the Philippine funding conduit to the AF. The document shows the World Bank colluding with unwitting officials from the [DPWH] and the [Pagasa] through a prospective $15-million AF grant. Under the proposal, the World Bank serves as an intermediary institution that will access the AF on behalf of the Philippines,” the statement said.

“It carries provisions that deliberately contradict the Philippine position in international climate-finance talks, which champions the promotion and operationalization of adaptation finance directly accessed by developing countries and free of MDB intermediaries. The proposal is not based on the country’s adaptation action plan and will likely squander urgently needed financial resources from the AF,” the statement added.

Joe Tuyor, World Bank East Asia and the Pacific Region Philippine Sustainable Development Unit Senior Operations Officer, told the BusinessMirror in a phone interview over the weekend that the details of the project have reached the bank, but the matter has not yet been acted upon because the project was not endorsed by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and the Climate Change Commission (CCC) for funding under the AF.

Tuyor explained that accessing the AF could be done through multilaterals like the World Bank and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), or directly by submitting a proposal to the AF board.

He stressed that it is still for the Philippine government to decide whether or not to have a particular project submitted for funding under the AF, and what kind of modality it will use to obtain AF funding.

“Countries can submit proposals direct to the adaptation board without going through the World Bank or UNDP, the other implementing agency of the adaptation fund. The guidelines for accessing the fund is available in the fund’s web site,” Tuyor said in a text message.

Tuyor added that based on their discussions with State officials in June, the bank and the government decided to postpone the evaluation of the proposal until after the Philippine Action Plan is drafted and completed by the CCC.

As the country’s sole policymaking body on climate change and other related programs and projects in the government, the iCSC said ensuring that projects like these are closely monitored is a priority.

However, in a recent statement, Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile said some actions of the CCC, a collegial body headed by the President, have only been decided by the vice chairman, the position occupied by former Environment secretary Heherson Alvarez.

Because of this, Enrile is also pushing for the amendment of Republic Act 9729 or the Climate Change Act, which created the CCC.

“This is a case of malicious intention on the part of the World Bank, which should be aware of the country’s long-held preference for the direct-access modality of the adaptation fund. But this is also an indication of the Commission’s cluelessness. This condition means it is part of the reason behind the governance chaos plaguing the administration of climate finance in the country,” iCSC Executive Director Renato Redentor Constantino said.

Alvarez, on the other hand, said the CCC is aware of all adaptation projects, including the ones discussed before the CCC was given its full mandate.

He said he has already submitted the country’s National Framework Strategy on Climate Change to a United Nations body to access the AF in a recent conference in Bonn, Germany.

Alvarez also said having a framework sent the signal to the UN that the Philippines is now ready to access the fund. He also said that on Tuesday, the CCC will meet with the DENR to discuss how to access the fund and what projects can be funded under the AF.

“The WB is clearly to blame for attempting to pull a fast one. But we have become easy prey because of the commission’s incompetence. The vice chairman is unaware of the World Bank (WB) submission. Worse, the same person has tried to access the AF by submitting the wrong document to the wrong body,” Constantino added.

Based on the project document obtained by the iCSC, the lion’s share of the funding will be for the $5.3-million National Early Warning Center, which will command and control the early warning system.

Other big items to be funded include the $2.4-million procurement of hardware and software for the system, and $2-million feasibility study for priority investments for the Bank’s identified Master plan for flood management in Metro Manila.

“The WB proposal intends to fund yet more feasibility studies [costing $2 million], for priority investments to be identified under a WB-financed flood-management plan, instead of concrete-adaptation projects called for by the Philippines. In addition, though feasibility studies are critical, the effort must at least be based on a country’s agreed priority needs,” the iCSC said.

Other items to be financed include the $1.514-million project to rehabilitate and upgrade flood control operation systems and the $1.15-million management fee for the WB.

“The proposal will waste $1.514 million to rehabilitate failed projects which, based on flawed designs, should probably not have been financed in the first place,” the iCSC said. “The total project cost of the WB proposal amounts to $13.85 million and allocates for the WB $2-million representing management costs, bringing the total financing proposal to $15 million.”
The iCSC said the Philippines played a central role in pushing for the creation of the AF, which represents, among global climate funds, the benchmark in terms of accountability principles, democratic governance, and innovative funding modalities.

The AF has the potential to generate greater resources. Unlike other global climate funds, the AF is not Official Development Assistance-driven and instead is funded by a 2-percent levy on Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) transactions.

Currently, iCSC data showed that revenues generated from the CDM levy are projected to be between $160 million and $950 million. Ongoing discussions indicate that the application of levies on international air travel may generate an additional $4-10 billion annually. The AF has also begun to receive bilateral funds, with Spain contributing $60 million recently.

For more details, contact: Red Constantino,, +639175241123,

iCSC Brief

World Bank moves to tap UN Adaptation Fund on behalf of the Philippines, undermines country’s direct access to the fund

Institute for Climate and Sustainable Cities, August 2010

The World Bank is actively undermining the ability of the Philippines to (1) access urgently needed, untied adaptation finance and (2) operationalize direct access-driven financing modalities. Documents and related information recently acquired by the Institute for Climate and Sustainable Cities (iCSC) expose plans by the World Bank to deny the Philippine government the option to directly access resources from the UN's Adaptation Fund (AF) and potentially impose more climate loans.

Lodged in the AF is the direct access finance modality, which, based on agreed rules, provides particularly developing countries like the Philippines the option to directly access funds in the AF without having to pass through multilateral development banks (MDB) such as the World Bank. Long championed by the Philippines, the direct access modality in the AF was crafted and agreed in the UN as an alternative to conditionality-spiked, inefficient, bureaucractic funding from MDBs. Among global climate funds, the AF represents today the benchmark in terms of accountability principles, democratic governance and accessible, developing country-sensitive, non-ODA driven financing mechanisms.

The World Bank-crafted document acquired by iCSC shows the World Bank inserting itself as the Philippine funding conduit to the AF. The document shows the World Bank colluding with unwitting officials from the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) and the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAG-ASA) through a prospective US$15 million AF grant. Under the proposal, the World Bank serves as an intermediary institution that will access the AF on behalf of the Philippines. It carries provisions that:

1. Deliberately contradict the Philippine position in international climate finance talks, which champions the promotion and operationalization of adaptation finance options free of MDB intermediaries.

2. The proposal is not based on the country's adaptation action plan and will likely squander urgently needed financial resources from the AF:

a. The WB proposal intends to fund yet more feasibility studies (costing $2.0 million), for priority investments to be identified under a WB-financed flood management plan, instead of concrete adaptation projects called for by the Philippines. Feasibility studies can be crucial to the realization of a country's agenda, but the effort must be based on a country's agreed priority needs.

b. The proposal will waste $1.514 million to rehabilitate failed projects which, having been based on flawed designs, should probably not have been financed in the first place.

c. The proposal fritters away funds by allocating US$1.0 million to pay for costly "consultancy services" provided by teams whose expertise and accountability will be as suspect as the institution (WB) that will hire them and who may follow WB-designed plans instead of nationally crafted and agreed adaptation action plans.

d. The total project cost of the World Bank proposal amounts to $13.85 million and allocates for the World Bank US$2.0 million representing management costs, bringing the total financing proposal to $15 million. Allowing a 10 percent "corruption" cost - an absurd proposition - still ends up cheaper than paying a 15 percent WB management fee.

This act of climate sabotage is merely the latest move taken by the World Bank against developing country interests. Earlier this June, it approved the "Climate Change Adaptation Project" (CCAP), worth US$55.42 million. Money for this project was pooled under a “co-financing” scheme that bannered a US$4.97M grant (from the GEF) evidently “co-financed” by the Philippines through funds from an existing loan coming from the same source – the World Bank.  The loan component for the CCAP amounts to US$50 million, representing around 90 percent of the total project cost, which may end up being counted as new and addtional contributions to adaptation finance from developed countries. Current World Bank energy funding also undercuts the very climate survival agenda of developing countries: five times more money is spent by the Bank to finance climate-polluting fossil fuel projects compared to its allocations for new renewable energy initiatives. #

About the Adaptation Fund

The Adaptation Fund (AF) is the first financial instrument under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and its Kyoto Protocol (KP) that is not based solely on voluntary contributions from donor countries. The Philippines played a central role in pushing for the creation of the AF, which today represents among global climate funds the benchmark in terms of accountability principles, democractic governance and innovative funding modalities.

The AF has the potential to generate greater resources. Unlike other global climate funds, the AF is not ODA-driven and instead "is funded by a 2% levy on Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) transactions. Currently, revenue generated from the CDM levy is projected to be between $160-$950 million (1).  Ongoing discussions indicate that the application of levies on international air travel may generate an additional $4-10 billion annually. The AF has also begun to receive bilateral funds, with Spain contributing $60 million recently (2).

The AF is fully accountable to and under the full authority of the UN climate assembly. It is the only fund in the global climate regime composed of a Board mandated to maintain a developing country majority and Least Developed Country seats. Although the World Bank was ultimately chosen as the Trustee of the AF and the Global Environment Facility (GEF) was designated as the Secretariat of the AF Board (a compromise after years of intense debate in the UN), the World Bank can only follow funding instructions emanating from the AF's Board while the GEF serves the AF Board only in a secretariat capacity.

Money provided bilaterally by donor countries to the AF ceases to become bilateral ODA once it enters the AF basin. The AF actually "launders" bilateral donor country contributions in the right way: by mixing bilateral contributions with proceeds from the CDM levy, and with a majority developing country Board that evaluates proposals based on Board-crafted requirements and processes, it strips away strings that might tie recipients of AF funds to conditions emanating from the funding source.

The AF actually has two modalities. One is the multilateral route, where a developing country accesses AF resources by going through Multilateral Implementing Entities (MIE) accredited by the AF, such as the World Bank and the UNDP. The other is the direct access route: through its designated National Implementing Entity (NIE), a developing country directly submits to the AF Board the country's adaptation funding proposal.

At its 9th Meeting on March 23-25 2010 in Bonn, Germany, the Adaptation Fund Board formally operationalized its much-touted Direct Access modality (3).  For the first time, the agreement made it possible for developing countries to obtain direct financial support from a multilateral climate fund without the need to take detours through the World Bank or similar multilateral funding institutions. Demands for “direct access” financing stem largely from extensively documented developing country frustrations with institutions such as the GEF and the World Bank.

With the confirmation of the legal capacity of the Adaptation Fund Board (AFB) to discharge its functions (via CMP Decision 1/CMP.4, paragraph 11), the stage is now set to test the direct access modality of the Adaptation Fund. However, the future of the AF and its direct access modality is under threat: if the Kyoto Protocol (KP) is superseded by another agreement, or an agreement is not reached, for instance, it is unclear if the AF will continue to exist as a stand-alone fund or if it will be housed under the UNFCCC. It is likewise unclear if the feature that best distinguishes the AF from other climate funds - its direct access modality - will survive such developments. Clearly, the Philippines must continue to champion the Adaptation Fund in the international climate talks together with the establishment of the direct access modality in other climate funds that will be agreed in the future.

(1) Jessica M. Ayers and Saleemul Huq, "Supporting adaptation to climate change: what role for official development assistance?" paper delivered at the DSA Annual Conference 2008 ‘Development’s Invisible Hands: Development Futures in a Changing Climate.’ 8th November 2008, Church House, Westminster, London.
(2)"Spain contributes 45 million Euros to the Adaptation Fund," Adaptation Fund press release, 28 April 2010.
(3)“The AF is mandated to finance concrete adaptation projects and programmes in developing countries that are Parties to the Kyoto Protocol. The total amount of funds to be made available for eligible developing country Parties will depend on the market-based monetization of Certified Emission Reductions (CERs) which are the AF's main source of revenue. Funding from other sources such as donations may also supplement the proceeds of the monetization of CERs.”
(4) World Bank press release: 10/08/2010

Photo by Reina/iCSC

Pushing for climate-change policies

Jeannie Javelosa
The Philippine Star
August 15, 2010

Sharing a conversation with Red Constantino will take you from the main issues of the times to the vision of a utopian future of sustainability and all the possible steps in between. And this is why I always enjoy talking to him. Not only is he a visionary but a radical for the stand of change. But it’s a smart radical that knows that once one makes a choice, one needs to work out the nuts and bolts of grounding that vision of change — from creating policies, to collaborative partnerships, to community development… in other words, to do all it takes to make that vision practical workable and to see clear key result areas.

Red Constantino is the executive director of the Institute for Climate and Sustainable Cities (ICSC), a non-profit organization working on sustainable energy solutions and fair climate policy. He and his colleagues in the ICSC, all former Greenpeace members, are working on helping create green and sustainable cities that address issues of climate change (waste treatment plants, depot for electric vehicles, biodigester plants to name a few essentials) with seed money from the Stichting Doen. The Doen Foundation’s advocacy is funding environmentally relevant and entrepreneurial and commercially viable sustainability projects that can be replicated. To date, ICSC’s focus has been on the ejeep and waste treatment facilities. ICSC introduced the electric jeep to the country.

Launched in 2007, the first units were made in China but within a year, the local industry association reacted positively. The Motor Vehicle Spare Parts Manufacturers of the Philippines made all the difference not only in assembling the ejeeps here but also spelt out the possibility for the long term success of the project as spare parts were now locally available and after sales service was answered. Makati City and Puerto Princesa in Palawan were the first cities who have adopted the ejeep; and are also both now looking at solutions for waste issues with ICSC.

ICSC’s next step was to help change policies: from creating routes, adding charging stations and looking towards expansion in Quezon City, San Juan, UP Diliman, Davao City and some cities in the Visayas. It’s a work in progress, Red tells me, as they are working slow but sure in trying to meet all the hurdles and challenges of making these solutions work to create more climate friendly cities.

The ICSC’s strategy is to act as catalysts to bring together various sectors in society to work on a “good idea.” What is clear to them is that focus is needed on policy work to promote adaptation activities against effects of climate change. The country will be hard hit as climate changes continue and there is a need to help in areas such as agriculture intervention for better farming methodologies so crops are spared, strategic urban planning to name a few.

Red talks about how there needs to be a clear country plan to bring in climate financing specific to adaptation. ICSC is intent on helping craft policy work with government in all levels to have clear steps to help the most vulnerable and impoverished Filipinos themselves (farmers, fisherfolks and urban poor women) who are already seeing great impact on climate changes in their lives. ICSC’s mission is to help government create a national climate action plan and help administer public finance at the soonest possible time to communities most vulnerable to increasingly severe climate change impacts.

Many donor countries offer funding for mitigation but not for adaptation. Adaptation strategies are often funded through loans and this is not the way for the country to go. He stresses that climate change will impact all aspects of our lives. We cannot just work on solutions reactively as what mitigation suggests, but rather, pro-actively create strategic plans for adaptation.

Red tells me of the failure of Copenhagen to deliver a fair, ambitious and binding deal on urgent mitigation and financing issues, and the possibilities of collapse of further international climate talks, which has left developing countries like the Philippines with little choice but to take local action. Meanwhile, government’s trench fighting and problem solving need to look at the existing skewed domestic actions towards wrong priorities with the sourcing (through loans), use (adaptation issues, a reactive process rather than pro-active planning which mitigation may allow us to do) and disbursement of foreign funding. It is crucial to take note of climate finance administration or all the money will just end up useless, or lost to corruption.

The ICSC, knowing that it is only government who can generate resources in a massive way, is actively working with Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile for the establishment of the National Survival Fund. This will help secure the long-term viability of Philippine development ambitions. It will democratize access to and create predictable, long-term finance streams for adaptation activities and climate-induced disaster preparedness programs. It will also prioritize areas in the country that require urgent adaptation support.

It is interesting to note that the Philippines is the only country in Southeast Asia with a dedicated agency on climate change. The Climate Change Commission, created last year, is chaired by the President and assisted by three commissioners. Perhaps because it is new, plus the change of government leadership, this Commission has not been maximized. Red Constantino concludes “that the powers and responsibilities of this important body should be expanded, not just to implement projects, but to include a climate knowledge hub and lead the setting of long-term, climate-resilient development agenda. It should also monitor the amount, mode and use of climate finance accessed from abroad and locally.”

(Follow me on twitter @jeanniejavelosa)


First photo of redster by Luis Liwanag. Second redster pic with Anabanana by Romil. Photos by without redster, by redster.

We’re in Top Gear!

Top Gear 1_cropped.jpg
Editor's note: Steven Yu writes about stepping into the shoes of an eJeepney navigator in this month’s Top Gear magazine (August 2010 issue).  Grab a copy of the magazine’s 4th annual green issue now, featuring green, eco-friendly cars.

A Day in the Life: E-motionally enlightened

Behind the wheel of an e-jeepney, Steven Yu develops a better appreciation for our so-called kings of the road.

I have a personal belief that the best way to understand someone else’s perspective is to put myself in that person’s place, and it works.  For example, after I started riding a bicycle and a motorcycle more frequently as a form of alternative transport and environmental consciousness, I became more considerate to fellow cyclists and motorcyclists.  Of course, other cases, such as being considerate to the elderly and handicapped, shouldn’t require firsthand experience - one only needs a sense of decency.  For me, though, personal experience is always the most effective medium for learning.

My assignment on this day will then teach me a new perspective.  For one day in my life, I get to be the king of the road.  Well, sort of.  Instead of the hot, noisy, smoke-belching public-utility vehicles that earned jeepney drivers all over the country a title derived from notoriety rather than royalty, I will be driving an e-jeepney around its “Green Route” within Legaspi Village in Makati.

The e-jeepney is described by its manufacturer, Philippine Utility Vehicles, as an “electric mass-transport vehicle,” and it shares nothing except its seating layout with its antiquated, diesel-fed counterpart.  Its very first use was implemented by the Institute for Climate and Sustainable Cities (iCSC), a Quezon City- based NGO directed by former Greenpeace environmental advocate Renato “Red” Constantino, and funded by both the Netherlands-based Stichting Doen Foundation and the local revenues generated from advertising space on the e-jeepneys.  This is in line with the Climate Friendly Cities (CFC) program, which is supported by the Motor Vehicle Parts Manufacturers Association of the Philippines and Makati City, and consists of three components to complete the “green circle”: a charging station/electric –vehicle terminal; a biodigester facility to convert biodegradable household waste into electric power; and the electric vehicles themselves.

To date, two cities have been identified as flagship sites for this technology – our host, Makati, followed recently by Puerto Princesa in Palawan.  Being one of the pioneering partners in the CFC Project, Makati began construction of a biodigester facility in Magallanes last year, but the plant fell victim to typhoon Ondoy’s wrath, delaying its completion.  Puerto Princesa was spared this misfortune, and its biodigester facility is nearing completion.  There are currently 20 e-jeepneys operating within Makati – 10 quietly plying the Legaspi Village loop, and the other 10 doing the same for Salcedo Village.  They are intra-village shuttles, servicing roads off-limits to other public-utility vehicles.

Joining me for my e-jeepney experience is Jerome Palomar, iCSC’s operations head, who familiarizes me with the e-jeepney before I get behind the wheel.  For starters, the e-jeepney does not have the traditional nose or hood because its 5kW electric motor is as small as a beer keg and – since it doesn’t require liquid cooling – is mounted under the passenger-area floor.  It is mated to an ordinary four-speed manual transmission, but because an electric motor can generate maximum torque at zero rpm, shifting through the gears becomes unnecessary.  It will start smoothly in fourth gear, so the only gears used are fourth for moving forward, and reverse.

Jerome tells me that although the 12 batteries powering the e-jeepney look like normal 12-volt asphalt-type 2SM car batteries, they are actually six-volt deep-cycle units developed by Motolite specifically for this application.  Unlike its conventional counterpart, a deep-cycle battery can tolerate up to almost 80-percent discharge while still retaining normal function, making it ideal for electric vehicles.  They have a lifespan of about two years and are all replaced in one go at a cost of P55,000.

With the Magallanes biodigesting facility still offline, the Makati e-jeepneys have to rely on commercial electricity for recharging.  It takes eight hours at 2.5kW for a full recharge, which equates to approximately P160 at current electric rates.  This provides enough power to travel 55km – or roughly 17 times around the 3.2km Legaspi Village loop from 9am to 5:30pm. Unlike gasoline or diesel vehicles, the e-jeepney doesn’t consume any power while sitting in traffic because the motor doesn’t run at all, so running costs are constantly kept low – P2.90/km.  The most frugal diesel vehicles may cost as little as P1.75 to operate, but their emissions eventually make the case for electric alternatives.

As for the reception of regular jeepney drivers to the e-jeepney, they are more fascinated than threatened by it.  After all, at P625,000 per unit, e-jeepneys aren’t cheap to acquire or upgrade to.  Nor will the investment see a quick return, because one of its other benefits is free transport, so companies are encouraged to either advertise on an e-jeepney or “adopt” one to sustain the program.

After a quick briefing, its time for me to drive the e-jeepney around Legaspi Village with a Makati Public Safety Authority officer guiding me.  Setting off takes a little getting used to because the electric motor doesn’t make any noise.  The accelerator is light and, thankfully, requires some travel before the e-jeepney gently gets afoot.  Once under way, though, everything is familiar, but the brakes – in absence of a hydrovac – require more effort to activate.  Ventilation and visibility are great, and it’s surprisingly comfortable – cool, even, because the electric motor doesn’t generate the same heat as a diesel engine does.

Guided to my first designated e-jeepney stop, I delightedly pick up my first passengers, glancing quickly at the rear-view mirror to check if they’re seated before I set off again.  One passenger, Jay Segovia III, tells me: “I just park my car in Glorietta, then ride the e-jeepney going to my office.  I am reducing my carbon monoxide emissions by not using my car.  The e-jeepney is also free, and the driver has a wide knowledge of the area.”

Several stops later, I’m ferrying several passengers and feeling accomplished.  That is, until I hear the words, “Mama, sa tabi lang po.” I’m in between stops, so I have to find the nearest opening to pull aside.  The more my e-jeepney fills up, the more frequently I hear “para,” and it’s rapidly becoming one of the most fulfilling experiences of my life.  I never saw the task of a jeepney driver from this perspective before, but having strangers entrust their lives to me – and returning that trust by getting them to their destinations – is both humbling and richly rewarding.

While there are still a lot of undisciplined jeepney drivers, I now imagine that the discomfort, the heat and the pressure to make their boundaries cause them to drive like they do.  But for the handful who do take their simple jobs to heart and drive responsibly, I now have more than just an understanding for them.  I envy them.

And you know what color that makes me.

Scanned images from August 2010 issue of Top Gear.
iCSC's climate finance initiative banner story in second largest Philippine newspaper

The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines, July 17, 2010 - Before the May elections, the Arroyo administration used up the entire 150 million euros or roughly P10.5 billion of a French loan that Paris thought was for climate change mitigation – but the fund was used to plug the budget deficit.

Dominique Lebastard, economic counselor of the French embassy, announced last Wednesday the full disbursement of the loan from the Agence Française de Développement (AFD) in May or three months after the signing of the loan agreement in February.

In a press briefing, Lebastard said the loan was in support of the Philippines’ effort to protect the environment and mitigate effects of climate change.

Former Finance secretary Margarito Teves later told The STAR the loan was used for “budget support” to plug the government’s widening budget deficit of P325 billion.

“It was to plug the budget deficit and could not be attributed to the elections,” Teves said when asked whether the Arroyo administration violated election laws with the disbursement of the loan. He said the loan allowed the government to diversify its sources of funds.

Finance Undersecretary Rosalia de Leon explained that when a loan is used for budgetary support, it helps fund all projects of the government, including those related to environment protection.

“AFD’s first loan implemented by the Department of Finance worth 150 million euros or P10.5 billion was signed on Feb. 15, 2010 and was entirely disbursed by May 2010,” Lebastard said.

Government spending on infrastructure is not allowed during the election season. The country held national and local elections last May 10.

“AFD is supporting the Philippines in its fight against climate change and for environmental protection,” he said.

The AFD opened a local office in Manila in May.

The AFD said climate change complicates efforts to reduce poverty by causing increasingly frequent and serious damage in economically precarious areas, and underscores the need for a low-carbon development path.

Teves signed the agreement with AFD Asia Director Martha Stein-Sochas and French Ambassador Thierry Borja de Mozota.

Luc Le Cabellec, senior adviser of the Asia Department of the AFD, arrived in the Philippines in May to oversee the creation of AFD’s Manila office.

The office now facilitates the flow of official development assistance from France.

The AFD is a development finance institution established in 1941 to implement France’s Overseas Development Assistance policies.

Funding problems

Civil society groups, meanwhile, have called on the government to be cautious in dealing with institutions that offer funds for environment protection.

“The lack of national climate action plans has made the Philippines vulnerable twice over and this needs to change. The country is exposed to greater climate risks yet it is also vulnerable to predatory financing from funding institutions seeking profit from climate induced tragedy,” said Red Constantino of the Institute for Climate and Sustainable Cities (ICSC).

A report titled “Financing Adaptation or Funding Chaos,” released recently by the ICSC and Oxfam is calling for climate action through public finance.

The report revealed that over 54 percent of foreign climate funds have been programmed for mitigation activities while only 45 percent of the funds have gone to urgent adaptation measures.

Constantino said a public finance-driven climate action has already gained support from some political leaders like former Senate president Juan Ponce Enrile.

Liberal Party spokesman and Quezon congressman Erin Tañada has said he is open to the idea.

“Among the first steps towards raising public funds for climate action is to scrutinize the national budget,” he said.

“We need to intensify demands for rich nations to scale up compensatory funding for impacts brought about by climate change. However, it is folly for the Philippines to rely only on the proliferation of finance pledges from developed countries,” the ICSC and Oxfam report said.

The report said the Aquino government must prioritize action on adaptation. It outlined a national adaptation agenda anchored on public finance.

The 30-page report is also asking concerned officials to “access untied finance from the Adaptation Fund, a non-donor-driven institution under the UN with funding modalities that allow developing countries to sidestep conditionality-heavy financing institutions such as the World Bank.”

“Adaptation should be declared as the national imperative,” said Oxfam climate campaigner Marie Madamba-Nuñez. Oxfam is a group of nongovernment organizations from three continents working worldwide to fight poverty and injustice.

“It is vital that new funds are mobilized and delivered to those least able to cope, such as small women shareholders in agriculture,” she added.

Recent figures provided by Oxfam showed that climate pledges from developed nations made during the December Copenhagen talks only amounted to $100 million.

The Philippines, meanwhile, only has P2.2 billion funding for climate change, P1.1 billion of which is intended for mitigation and the remaining P956 million for adaptation.

Oxfam and ICSC are also calling for the creation of a National Survival Fund “that will democratize access to and create predictable long-term finance streams for urgent adaptation and disaster-risk reduction projects and programs.”

“Rationalization and the immediate revision of the implementing rules and regulations of the Climate Change Commission should be considered urgent,” they added.

“The Commission needs to play a capacity-building, coordinative leadership role, primarily as the country’s lead climate action rating agency,” the report read. With Rhodina Villanueva - By Pia Lee-Brago and Iris Gonzales