COP28

Civil society groups sidelined at first-ever Philippine pavilion at COP28

Iya Gozum

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Civil society groups sidelined at first-ever Philippine pavilion at COP28

PAVILION. The Philippines hosts its first-ever pavilion at the COP28.

Jee Geronimo/Rappler

(1st UPDATE) Concerned groups say it is clear that the inclusion of vulnerable communities and civil society is ‘not a priority’ of the Philippine delegation at the COP28

MANILA, Philippines — This year’s United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP28) has just started, yet environmental, civil society groups are already calling out the Philippine delegation for its supposed “prejudice” in the selection of side event partners at the Philippine Pavilion.

In a statement released Friday, December 1, the groups expressed “grave” disappointment at “the Philippine delegation’s failure to uphold meaningful participation of communities and civil society in the first-ever Philippine Pavilion at COP28.”

Concerned groups who penned the statement include the Philippine Movement for Climate Justice, Caritas Philippines, Center for Energy, Ecology, and Development, Greenpeace Philippines, among others.

“Unfortunately, it is clear that the inclusion of vulnerable communities and civil society is not a priority of the delegation, and the pavilion’s execution,” said the statement.

The annual climate talk has a pavilion space where parties can host events, meetings, and office accommodations. This is the first time that the Philippines is hosting its own pavilion.

And this is crucial, the groups said, as “it is a space that has potential to facilitate critical intersectoral discussions for our people’s climate survival.”

Meanwhile, another coalition of environmental groups is also airing the same sentiments with the Philippine delegation.

According to an email obtained by Rappler a day before COP28 started, coalition Aksyon Klima Pilipinas (AKP) said it has been engaging with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) regarding pavilion plans since August but to no avail.

AKP said it submitted four proposals for the pavilion side events, and had to adjust along the way as the DENR changed requirements.

The DENR requirements included that side events be “solutions-driven” and co-organized by a government agency which would then submit the endorsement and the proposal to the DENR.

AKP noted that the groups involved are “significantly linked to DENR Secretary Loyzaga.” President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., who is unable to attend the conference, entrusted environment secretary Toni Yulo-Loyzaga as the head of the Philippine delegation.

Rodne Galicha, who is in Dubai for COP28, said AKP is still waiting “in good faith” for the response of the delegation before the pavilion officially opens. Galicha is a Sibuyan Island resident and executive director of Living Laudato Si.

“We cannot negotiate or lobby for the country…. They’re the ones who can negotiate,” Galicha told Rappler in a phone interview. “What we do is to do this inside track, conversing with the Philippine government to be the voice of the communities we serve.”

According to Galicha, AKP has yet to hear from the delegation about its proposals.

Some of the groups who were given go signals to organize side events, according to the initial calendar released last November 10, are UN Women, Asian Development Bank, SM Prime, and the United States for International Development.

Galicha said they were not maligning these groups. “We do not antagonize,” said Galicha. “We respect them.”

However, Galicha also said COP28 must not end without the civil society groups and the delegation talking.

A source from the department meanwhile said they have been engaging with the groups that signed the statement.

However, the DENR had to “curate” the activities, given the jam-packed events, meetings, and side events at COP28.

“But just because they’re not included in the COP doesn’t mean they’re not heard or included,” the source said in a mix of Filipino and English. “As mentioned, these groups are engaged and some have even met with the secretary or other DENR officials.”

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COP28 runs from November 30 to December 12, in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. The annual climate conference draws delegates and heads of state all over the world.

The DENR said the country’s pavilion at COP28 will showcase “the story of how the whole nation is working together towards a climate-resilient future.”

The Philippine pavilion will host 32 side events led by national government agencies in partnership with development partners.

Side events will kick-off with a discussion on the National Adaptation Plan and the Nationally Determined Contribution Implementation Plan, led by the DENR, the Climate Change Commission, and the Asian Development Bank. – Rappler.com

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Iya Gozum

Iya Gozum covers the environment, agriculture, and science beats for Rappler.