climate change

Duterte appoints chief of presidential protocol to lead Climate Change Commission

Pia Ranada
Duterte appoints chief of presidential protocol to lead Climate Change Commission

NEW ROLE. Special Envoy and Presidential Assistant on Foreign Affairs Robert Borje meets with some Filipino migrant workers during his visit at the Philippine Embassy shelter in Abu Dhabi on February 12, 2022. Malacañang photo

PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO

Robert Borje, a diplomat and Malacañang official, is appointed to a post that requires at least a decade of experience in climate change

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte has appointed Chief of Presidential Protocol and presidential assistant Robert Borje as vice chairperson and executive director of the Climate Change Commission (CCC).

The commission tweeted this development on Monday, March 14. Malacañang is yet to release Borje’s appointment paper or confirm the appointment.

“Vice Chairperson Borje, also concurrent Executive Director, joins the CCC after serving as Chief of Presidential Protocol and Presidential Assistant on Foreign Affairs at the Office of the President,” said the CCC in a tweet.

Albert Dela Cruz, an undersecretary at the Department of Human Settlements and Urban Development (DHSUD), was also named Climate Change Commissioner while current commissioner Rachel Herrera will remain for a second term.

The position of CCC vice chairperson means Borje effectively heads the commission. By law, the commission’s chairperson is actually the President. But the vice chairperson also serves as executive director and holds the rank of secretary, whereas the other commissioners have the lower rank of undersecretary.

How does Borje, a protocol officer and foreign affairs official, qualify for the post? According to the Climate Change Act of 2009, which created the commission, a climate commissioner must have “at least 10 years of experience on climate change and of proven honesty and integrity.”

“The Commissioners shall be experts in climate change by virtue of their educational background, training and experience,” reads Section 7 of the law.

While serving as chief of presidential protocol, Borje was also Duterte’s Presidential Assistant on Foreign Affairs. This meant he helped the President during visits of foreign dignitaries, attend to diplomacy issues, and even in crafting Duterte’s speeches in high-impact diplomatic events.

In at least one instance, this involved climate change diplomacy. Borje was part of the Philippine delegation to the United Nations climate summit in Scotland.

Even the CCC’s description of Borje’s background did not list down any explicit climate change experience.

“He was a career diplomat at the DFA with the rank of Career Minister. Secretary Borje was posted to the Philippine Permanent Mission to the United Nations in New York and the Philippine Embassy in Washington DC. Prior to government service, he was a media practitioner,” tweeted the commission.

Rappler has reached out to Borje to ask about his experience on climate change issues, but has yet to receive a response. Likewise, Rappler has not received any reply from Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea on Borje’s experience on climate change. It is Medialdea’s office that often vets presidential appointments. – Rappler.com

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Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada is a senior reporter for Rappler covering Philippine politics and environmental issues. For tips and story suggestions, email her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.