MANILA, Philippines (2nd UPDATE) – Naderev "Yeb" Saño has resigned from his post as Philippine Climate Change Commissioner, ending a colorful career as one of the country's most prominent negotiators in international climate change conferences.
In a press release dated April 22, Earth Day, Saño did not give a reason for his resignation but said he is joining "the people in the larger global climate movement."
"Today, I wish to announce that I am stepping down as a Commissioner of the Philippines’ Climate Change Commission. I will be working with different faith groups across the world, as part of the larger global climate movement."
Saño said he has been tapped to lead a Climate Pilgrimage being organized by global, multi-faith climate campaign Our Voices.
"It is my humble view that the country has so much yet to confront towards our vision of a resilient nation...I sincerely feel that the battle cannot be won merely within the confines of the institutions we have built and the boundaries of our country," reads his statement.
Saño told Rappler that he officially submitted his resignation last March 13 but that he is also submitting an "irrevocable resignation" on April 22.
The same day, Saño embarked on a 10-kilometer walk from the Mary Queen of Peace Shrine in Quezon City to the Jose Rizal Monument in Manila in honor of Earth Day.
The Climate Pilgrimage or People's Pilgrimage will culminate in a 1,500-kilometer march by climate advocates from Rome to Paris, France. The "pilgrims" are supposed to arrive in Paris by the end of November 2015, right in time for the United Nations Paris climate conference.
The Paris summit promises to be a historic one as it aims to forge a global agreement in which countries commit to implement policies needed to curb global warming from reaching a catastrophic level.
Saño said the Pilgrimage starts in mid-May when he and other Filipinos will leave Tacloban, Leyte – ground zero of Super Typhoon Yolanda (international name Haiyan) – for Vanuatu, a Pacific island nation also vulnerable to natural disasters.
They will then travel to Korea, Thailand, Indonesia, Australia, India, Rome, Africa, and the Americas, before arriving in Rome.
"Together, we will pay homage to global hotspots that are at risk from climate change, but that in equal measure celebrate compelling examples of climate leadership, solutions and climate resilience," he said.
Saño's resignation comes 4 months after he was noticeably left out of the crucial UN conference in Lima, Peru.
His absence at a conference deemed a vital build-up to the Paris talks was a big issue for many environmentalists and climate activists.
Many consider him to be an important voice in the talks, representing the developing countries in the Pacific which are considered the most vulnerable to climate change.
His exclusion from the talks coincided with a change in strategy by the Philippine delegation to the UN climate talks.
The new strategy focuses more on framing climate change as a human rights issue. It puts less emphasis on stickier issues like a loss and damage and compensation, issues Saño had been actively engaging on as commissioner.
The Lima delegation also included officials from the Department of Foreign Affairs, a first in the history of Philippine participation in the talks.
Conflict in the commission
In a statement relayed through Palace Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr, Climate Change Commission vice chair Lucille Sering said Saño tendered his “irrevocable resignation” on March 27.
“He announced it himself today as part of his launch of another climate change pilgrimage. But as far as we have gathered, he is reportedly being groomed to head Greenpeace. No formal acceptance of his resignation yet as it has just been forwarded to the Office of the President,” Sering said on Wednesday.
It is an open secret that Saño does not get along with other officials in the commission, specifically his superior, Sering.
The rift first surfaced when Sering reportedly berated Saño for crying during his speech in Warsaw, Poland.
During the Warsaw conference, Saño broke down while giving a speech which took place as Super Typhoon Yolanda (international name Haiyan) raged in the Philippines.
During the speech, he emphasized the destructive consequences of climate change to human communities.
Saño had also broken down in the 2012 climate conference in Doha. These emotional pleas were often accompanied by hunger strikes in a bid to ramp up political will for controversial issues in the climate talks. – with a report from Natashya Gutierrez/Rappler.com
Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at email@example.com.