No official from the government body primarily tasked with climate change policies and programs is physically attending the key United Nations climate summit in Glasgow.
Albert Magalang, an environment department official attending the conference, confirmed that no member of the Climate Change Commission is part of the Philippine delegation to the summit.
In a message to Rappler on Wednesday, October 27, Magalang confirmed that Jerome Ilagan, the CCC official who was initially included in the delegation, will no longer be attending.
Asked why, Magalang said the question is best answered by delegation head Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III. Dominguez is technically a CCC official since he has been designated by President Rodrigo Duterte as CCC chairperson, in his stead.
Dominguez is yet to respond to Rappler’s request for comment. Finance Assistant Secretary Paola Alvarez, who has been speaking in behalf of the Philippine delegation, has also not responded to our queries.
Ilagan, who is Chief of the Policy Research and Development in the CCC, has also not responded to Rappler’s messages.
We will update this story once we get a response.
But in a press conference on Tuesday, Alvarez did not include CCC in her description of agencies who are sending representatives to the conference.
“We have delegation from the Department of Foreign Affairs, the Office of the President, Department of Energy as well as the DENR together with DOF representatives,” she said.
She said 19 officials will comprise the Philippine delegation.
“We wanted to keep it as lean as possible because the Glasgow and the UK also have, the UN organizers also suggested we limit the number of people who attend due to the Covid restrictions as well,” said Alvarez.
Later on Thursday, the finance department provided the list of all 19 Philippine delegation members. The list, signed by President Duterte, confirmed that no CCC official apart from Dominguez would be attending.
The memo finalizing the composition of the delegation was only approved on Wednesday, October 27, or four days before the start of COP26.
Impact on negotiations
It’s not clear if Ilagan’s non-attendance is a decision by the government or the consequence of pandemic restrictions. But Naderev “Yeb” Saño, a climate activist and former climate change commissioner, said the physical absence of a CCC official could have consequences.
“The CCC is expected to have the institutional memory of the negotiations, and without them in the delegation, the assumption is that that institutional memory has been shared with the delegation,” he told Rappler on Wednesday.
Institutional memory refers to the Philippines’ past positions on issues, diplomatic sensitivities, and alignments with negotiating blocs.
The non-attendance of a CCC official is also “inconsistent” with the Climate Change Act of 2009 which created the commission and stipulated that it should lead the formulation of negotiating positions in UN summits.
“Being unable to participate in the COP hampers the CCC’s fulfillment of its mandate, and in principle, deprives the delegation of the wisdom that has been invested by the authors of the legislation,” said Saño.
He said the Philippine government has to explain to the public why no CCC official is in the delegation.
However, he is hopeful that the delegation is somehow making up for the physical absence of the CCC in Glasgow. He expects that CCC officials like Ilagan would have briefed members of the delegation on what they need to know to negotiate at the summit.
“I also understand that Secretary Dominguez and Assistant Secretary Paola have been very involved in the work of the CCC, so that may have equipped them well to be at the COP,” said Saño.
Some of the DFA representatives may also have experience in past climate negotiations.
Aksyon Klima, a network of climate advocacy groups, called on the Philippine delegation to be more transparent.
“We call on Secretary Dominguez to meet Filipino civil society organizations and the private sector present at COP26,” said the group’s lead convenor Rodne Galicha.
“We strongly demand that the Philippine delegation must lay down its priorities for the negotiations,” he added. – Rappler.com
This story was produced as part of the 2021 Climate Change Media Partnership, a journalism fellowship organized by Internews’ Earth Journalism Network and the Stanley Center for Peace and Security.
Rappler is doing live updates and reporting on COP26 in Glasgow. Check this page for our coverage.