COP26

Who’s who in the Philippine delegation to Glasgow UN climate summit

Pia Ranada
Who’s who in the Philippine delegation to Glasgow UN climate summit

DELEGATION. The members of the Philippine delegation include (L-R) DOF's Paola Alvarez, Malacañang official Robert Borje, Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr., DOE's Wimpy Fuentebella, and Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III.

(1st UPDATE) The 19-person team is dominated by the Department of Finance

A total of 19 government officials, mostly from the finance department and foreign affairs department, will be fighting for the Philippines’ interest in high-stakes negotiations at the United Nations (UN) climate summit in Glasgow.

The composition of the delegation, to be led by Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III in a historic first, was only finalized on Wednesday, October 27, or four days before the summit starts on October 31.

The summit is also known as COP26, which stands for 26th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea signed the memorandum listing the members of the delegation.

Of the 19, eight are from the Department of Finance (DOF), six are from the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), two are from the Department of Energy, one is from the Office of the President, and one is from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

The delegation includes support staff.

Departing from past UN climate summits, not one official from the Climate Change Commission is in the delegation.

There are also no civil society groups or members of the academe in the delegation, unlike in past COPs (conferences of parties).

Members of the delegation

Here are the names of all the members of the delegation, based on the Medialdea memo:

  • Secretary Carlos Dominguez III – Head of delegation, chief negotiator, official representative of the President
  • Undersecretary, Chief of Protocol, and Presidential Assistant for Foreign Affairs Robert Borje
  • DOF Undersecretary Mark Dennis Joven
  • DOF Assistant Secretary Paola Alvarez
  • DOF director Neil Adrian Cabiles
  • Jenevive Lontok (DOF)
  • Sharmaine Dianne Ramirez (DOF)
  • Nathan Eleizer Bayasen (DOF)
  • Cherry Mae Gonzales (DOF)
  • Martin Lorenzo Perez (DOF)
  • Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr.
  • Philippine Ambassador to the United Kingdom Antonio Lagdameo
  • Philippine Permanent Mission to the UN in New York Representative Leila Lora-Santos
  • DFA Assistant Secretary Maria Angela Ponce
  • Beatriz Alexandra Martinez (DFA)
  • George Benedict Pineda (DFA)
  • DOE Undersecretary Felix William Fuentebella
  • Karlo Louise Matias (DOE)
  • DENR director Albert Magalang

Of the 19, only two – DENR’s Magalang and DFA’s Lora-Santos – have experience in UN climate summit negotiations. Magalang is the Climate Change Division chief of the Environmental Management Bureau at the DENR. He has attended many COPs.

Some of the DOF officials hold key positions involving international funding.

Joven leads the DOF’s International Finance Group. Alvarez, aside from being DOF spokesperson, is assistant secretary for international finance and also used to have the title of assistant secretary for sustainable finance and disaster risk finance.

In the DFA’s pool of representatives, at least one has experience in environmental issues. Ponce is DFA assistant secretary for maritime and oceans affairs.

Fuentebella is the right-hand man of Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi. He will likely be in charge of talks or positions on energy transition.

Malacañang Undersecretary Robert Borje is likely in the delegation to serve as its link to President Rodrigo Duterte, who may have to be consulted on what positions the delegation will take on sensitive issues to be tackled in the negotiations.

Duterte is particularly concerned about climate justice – or making sure developing countries like the Philippines don’t get the shorter end of the stick in climate deals when it’s wealthy nations like the United States and China who are responsible for most of the carbon emissions.

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DOF-dominated

It may be off-putting to many that the delegation to a climate change conference is dominated by the DOF. In fact, the delegation is being led by the country’s finance secretary for the first time in Philippine history.

But having plenty of finance officials representing the Philippines is not necessarily a bad thing, according to COP veterans Tony La Viña and Yeb Saño.

“Finance is a key item for the Philippines and all developing countries at COP26. How we ensure that developed countries fulfill their commitment under the Paris Agreement to mobilize $100 billion per year by 2025 is of utmost importance,” Saño told Rappler.

But he also said the government must explain the notable absence of any CCC official from the delegation, given that the commission is primarily responsible for climate policies and has institutional knowledge of past COP talks.

La Viña, seeing the list of delegation members, called it a good team.

“If anything, what is good about this delegation is that it represents the President and would have that credibility,” he told Rappler.

“The last time we were influential in the COP was in Paris in 2015. The truth is climate change under Duterte has been a marginalized issue until now. With Dominguez and Locsin there, they will be seen as having the President behind them,” La Viña added.

However, some “holes” in the delegation include the absence of a scientist and a government official well-versed in climate adaptation. In the past, this role was played by Agriculture Undersecretary Fred Serrano.

He also said it would have been better if an official from state weather bureau PAGASA was included in the delegation since the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change 6th Assessment Report, a key report on the physical science basis of global warming, will likely be discussed in the Glasgow talks.

No civil society representatives in delegation

Also notable is the absence of even a single slot in the delegation for civil society groups or academe.

Other countries include civil society organizations, private sector representatives, members of indigenous communities, and experts in their delegation to COPs.

“The principle is that climate change affects everyone and requires a whole-of-society approach. How can a delegation composed exclusively of government officials represent all these voices and be faithful to the avowed whole-of-society approach?” said Saño, who was climate change commissioner during the administration of Benigno Aquino III.

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Since 1990, the Philippine delegation to the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee for a Framework Convention on Climate Change (which led to the UNFCCC, basis of the current COPs), had included civil society representatives.

Until 2014, the same could be said of Philippine delegations to COPs. In 2014, slots for them in the delegation became much more limited.

Alvarez said the government decided to send a “lean” team this year due to COVID-19 restrictions and requests made by the host country, the United Kingdom.

Despite this, Philippine civil society groups and private sector groups have managed to send representatives to Glasgow. Aksyon Klima, Living Laudato Si’, Institute for Climate and Sustainable Cities, and Youth Strike 4 Climate Philippines will be represented at the summit. – 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.

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.